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“I could see nothing but thick vegetation on the hills. I started climbing the stairs but for I could see nothing except the jungles and some other visitors. But after one last flight of stairs, I colossal face appeared. I walked a bit more and suddenly some more faces appeared. These hills indeed have eyes!”

Unakoti is probably the best-known destination in the Tripura Tourist Map. I remember it was featured in Surabhi once, back in the 90s. I don’t think still many people are visiting these monuments but at least I think it is a more familiar name compared to the likes of Pilak and Chabimura. So, when I planned to finally visit Tripura, I decided to make it the first stop.

Also Read: Why Tripura is a Backpacker’s Paradise

Since I could not get a confirmed ticket for any Tripura-bound train, I booked till Badarpur, took a shared car to Karimganj, and then took a bus to Dharmanagar, which is a major train station, and the largest town near Unakoti. In fact, Dharmanagar itself is a historical town built around a beautiful lake called Kali Dighi and dotted with many temples. The lake has been decorated with fountains and they light up at night, so it is a good place for lazy evening walks at the end of the trip. I checked into a hotel by the side of the lake. It was noon by then and I had enough time left for visiting my place on the same day.

Unakoti is located somewhere on the road connecting Dharmanagar and Kailashahar, another major town, which used to be the ancient capital of this land and the rulers of this kingdom were responsible for Unakoti. I took a shared car plying between both the town, passed through many tea gardens and densely forested areas, and got down at a spot where I could see the appropriate signage.

Road Sign at Unakoti

Although it is not far from the road, the ruins of Unakoti are not easily visible due to hilly terrain and thick vegetation. I followed the signage, walked for almost a kilometre, and finally reached the entry gate. For some reasons, the guard did not even ask for tickets and let me in. Initially, I just saw some stairs and nothing more. I climbed one of them and saw some other visitors roaming around. I moved forward, getting impatient gradually. But that is when I suddenly noticed a pair of imposing eyes staring at me from a distance. As I moved closer, more and more gigantic faces started appearing.

Faces of UnakotiThe History of Unakoti (Or the Lack of It)

To say that the bas-reliefs of Unakoti are unique is an understatement. There is no equal to them in the entire region both in terms of style as well as the enormity. To me, they are somewhat reminiscent of those mysterious Easter Island statues by the Rapa Nui. Also, as is the case with the most archaeological sites out here, we have no clear idea who made it. Various myths associated with the site has been popularized by Rajmala, the official chronicle of the Manikya dynasty of Tripura. However, considering the lack of actual historical details, it most probably predates that dynasty. In general they are believed to be from 7th to 9th century. The figures here look so unique that it takes some time to figure out the gods they depict. I finally spotted a Nandi Bull under one of the faces and that is how I realized that it is primarily a Shaivite site. There is also a big Ganesha image on the lower side of the hill and one has to climb down a pretty steep flight of stairs to have a clear view of the same.

Shivling worshiped by localsNandi

As I mentioned already, Kailashahar used to be an important town in the ancient times and Unakoti being a Shaivite site, both seem obvious connected (Hope you noticed the “Kailash” in Kailashahar). But the other noteworthy aspect here are the faces themselves. Only the presence of the Nandi and some small phallic structures indicated that it is dedicated to Shiva. The faces sculpted on the hills are completely different from the usual Hindu iconography and the faces have distinctive Tibeto-Burman features, thus making it an invaluable cultural missing links.

Some additional statues lying at the hilltopGanesh

The Story of Unakoti

In the absence of clear history, all we have are the stories. Even in this case, there no consensus and multiple stories can be found regarding the mythological origins of this site. The only one thing that everyone agrees upon is that the name Unakoti comes from the fact that the total number of statues here is one less than a crore (i.e. one less than 10 million…. or 9999999). The rest of the stories differ, from a blacksmith who built the statues to satisfy Shiva, to cursed deities who were turned into stones simply because they did not wake up on time.

Mysteries That Will Never be SolvedLook at the humans for scaleLook at the humans for scale IIIs that a Lion?

I spent more than an hour at Unakoti. It was getting dark and now I began to realize that I might have taken a big risk by relying on public transport. It is located in the middle of thick jungles and while shared cars ply on the road, they don’t usually wait there. Most other visitors had their own vehicles and so they disappeared soon. I was hoping to catch some cab coming from Kailashahar but the usual traffic had died down by then. So, I started walking, mentally preparing myself to walk the whole 20 Kms and reach my hotel at 9 PM in the worst case scenario. However, after 15 minutes of walking, one car stopped behind me with a screeching sound. It was a van belonging to a courier company but the driver was in a good mood. He offered me a lift. As it turned out, he is habitual at offering a lift. He kept pausing and picking up random bystanders, as he kept incessantly talking about his life and the state in general. He even predicted the outcome of the upcoming assembly elections and dropped me near my hotel in half an hour.

Unakoti Travel Guide How to Reach Unakoti?

Unakoti is located between two important towns, Dharmanagar, and Kailashahar. This area is located in the Northern Tripura, closer to Assam border. So, if you are taking any train or bus from Assam, Dharmanagar will be the first major town on your way. From here, you can get into any bus or the shared car going to Kailashahar and ask them to drop you near Unakoti which is 20 KMs from Dharmanagar while Kailashahar is another 10 KMs from it. To return, come back to the road and wait for the shared cars to arrive.

Where to stay in Unakoti?

You can’t exactly stay here. But both DHarmanagar and Kailashahar have enough options. There are Tripura Tourism Lodges at both places and also many private hotels. I stayed in Dharmanagar at a place called Hotel Sun, near the Kali DIghi. It was a small but convenient room for just INR 350.

Entrey Fee in Unakoti

Nobody charged me any free. They probably forgot. Anyway, it is a negligible amount as far as I know.

Kailashahar

Kailashahar used to be the ancient capital of Tripura and it is believed that the rulers of this town were the ones who constructed Unakoti. There is another government tourist lodge here along with other hotels. It even had an airport but that is no longer functional. There are also many tea gardens around Kailshahar that can offer you some pretty frames.

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So… what else to be done here in Kohima?

I kept encountering this question during my time in Nagaland, which coincided with the Hornbill Festival of 2017. The original plan did not include Hornbill but I ended up spending 3 days near the festival venue. I met a lot of people, some hardened travellers, some newbies, all enjoying rice beer and rock concerts. But I still felt that most people are not sure what to be done in Kohima.

Muscular Konyaks always win the tug of war at Hornbill.

A lot of people are nowadays getting drawn by the well-publicized Hornbill Festival but after that, they seemed to be in need of some guidance. I even met people who had not even heard of the basics such as Dzukou Valley and Khonoma. I wonder if they even bothered to Google before booking their tickets. For the same reason, I wonder if anyone will even read this post but anyway, let me try.

Kohima has many attractions within the town and then there are many nearby villages and towns as well as treks and trails to keep everyone busy for a few days. Some of thenm are within the town while the rest are in the nearby villages within the 20-30 KM radius of the town and you normally find shared jeeps to these villages from the city.

WW II Cemetery Grave of an unidentified soldier

The World War II Cemetery if one of the most prominent monuments in Kohima. It is located at the top of a hillock in the heart of the city and visible from a distance. This is a good way to start because most people are also not aware of the Battles of Kohima and Imphal that proved to be decisive moments of the closing stages of the war when the Japanese were finally beaten back by the allied forces. The cemetery has around 1500 graves maintained bt the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The luckier ones here have names and regiments mentioned, and their families probably visit them still. Some others are nameless, and they lie in obscurity! A couple of Lee Grant Tanks from that era can also be seen nearby.

These Lee Grant Tanks are located not far from the WW II cemetery in Kohima.Nagaland State Museum

The Nagaland State Museum is a good way to gain some basic understanding about Naga people, and their various clans and cultures before you start visiting their actual villages. Nagas have many clans and dozens of dialects within themselves. All major Naga clans have their own customs, apparels, and culture. So, many believe that they all had different origins and the umbrella term Naga came up later on as they were living in the same region. So, yes, it can get confusing, and it is better o have some primer on them at the museum first. I spent around 2 hours here and it was pretty informative. There is also a mermaid statue outside (with a distinctive caucasian face). I don’t know what it means though.

Mermaid Statue outside Kohima Museum.
Kisama Heritage Village Colourful participants during Hornbill Festival at Kisama

The Kisama Heritage Village is the officla venue for the Hornbill Festival, only 10 KMs away from Kohima city. Even when the festival is not on, you can still visit it as there are othe rattractions inside. It is basically a not an actual village but a model village developed to display the varied cultures of the state. There are seperate model houses representing each major tribe living in the state including all Naga Clans as well as others such as the Dimasas. There is also a church and food court among other things and during the festival this remains jam-packed. The other most important entity here is the WWII Museum that is discussed in the next paragraph.

Kisama WWII Museum Mortar from 1945 at Kisama WWII Museum

As mentioned before, Kohima was a major battleground. Still, remains of the battle, parts of destroyed tanks, grenades, bullets, guns, etc keep getting dug out from this area. This musuem located within Kisama Heritage Village, makes an effort to preserve some of those findings. A similar museum is the INA Museum located in Moirang, Manipur. But having seen both, I can say that this one is better maintained. Also, in Moirang you are not allowed to take photographs while here you can just pay a small camera fee and carry on with your work.

Dzukou Valley Uneven meadows of Dzukou Valley.

Well, enough has been said about Dzukou Valley in this blog already. It is probably the best short treks in the entire Northeast and the trekking point is barely 20 KMs from Kohima city and barely 10 Kms from Kisama Hornbill venue. It has one of the most unique landscape with no parallels (At least I am not aware of). I have already made two attempts including one failure and one success. I am not done with it yet. I will have to return in the flowering season during the sumer for better photographs. There are provisions to stay at the top of the 2500 metre high valley. Even the villages like Viswema and Jakhama that leading to that place have great views.

Read my Dzukou Valley Blog Post for complete details.

Japfu Peak

Japfu Peak is not far from Dzukou Valley and the trek starts from the same area. It is a comparatively more strenuous trek that leads you to 3100 metres high peak, which is the second highest peak in Nagaland (after Mount Saramati in Kiphire district). You will have to find local guides for this trek. I have not done it so far but apparently, there is rhododendron tree at the top which is supposed to be the tallest rhododendron in the world!

View of the Viswema village from higher up the hills.Khonoma Green Village Near vertical slopes of Khonoma

Khonoma is a beautiful traditional village that is called a “Green Village” because they apparently “Don’t Hunt and Don’t Cut Trees”! Around 20 Kms from Kohima, it offers excellent frames as they cultivate on nearly vertical slopes near the village. Sadly I was there at the wrong time, so thelight was not good and the rice terraces could not be captured the way I wanted to. You have to pay an entry fee at the entrance of the village and you can also hire guides from here to guide you through the village.

Dzuleke

Dzuleke is an up and coming destination in Nagaland, 40 Kms away from Kohima. The road to Dzuleke goes ahead of Khonoma. I never reached it but I saw the road signs leading to it near Khonoma. Public transport is an issue here and if you have a vehicle at your disposal, it is much easier. There are homestays here so that you can experience an authentic Angami Naga experience. The area is also rich in wildlife, especially the endangered Blythe’s Tragopan, which is the state bird of Nagaland.

Touphema Tourist Village

The Touphema Tourist Village is designed to provide an authentic Naga experience to tourists. It is around 40 Kms from Kohima. There are good accommodation options here and you experience Naga lifestyle, eat local cuisine, and go for small local hikes. It has been built by local communities with the help of the tourist department. I’m yet to visit this one.

Tseminyu

Tseminyu falls on the ancient migration route of the Naga tribes, around 50 KMs away from Kohima. Ancient gravestones, pottery, and a lot of other remains can still be found here apart from the expectedly scenic surroundings. I feel much more remains to be explored and researched here. It is beyond Touphema on the same road as far as I know. I hope I will make it there this winter.

Pfutsero Cherry Blossoms near Pfutsero

Pfutsero was the most sudden yet most satisfactory discoveries of last year. It is located in the neighbouring Phek district, around 60 KMs away from Kohima. It is the highest and coldest town in Nagaland and you can go for a short hike to the Glory Peak, the highest point of the town. But the highlight of my visit was the cherry blossoms that had turned the trail pink, and yet nobody had ever told me about that before!

Read my Pfutsero blog post for more details.

Misty morning at Pfutsero, the highest town in Nagaland.Pulie Badze Wildlife Sanctuary

Pulie Badze Wildlife Sanctuary is located near Jotsoma Village, barely 10 KMs from Kohima. The jungles here are full of exotic fauna and they offer great views of the Japfu range. You can go for a short hike through the jungle here. I have not done it though.

Ketsiezou Watch Tower

Again, I have personally not visited this one so not sure if the memorial is still intact although google throws up a photograph. This location offers a good view of Kohima from a height and the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders and the Royal Scots Memorial is located here as members from these regiments took part in heavy fighting in this area back in 1945.

Portraits like this can be easily clicked at Hornbill.

PS: For Hornbill Festival, read this old guest post by a friend.

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Tripura takes immense pride in Neermahal. This is supposed to be one of the only two water palaces in India apart from Jal Mahal in Jaipur (That’s what they say… let me know if you know of others). But I have always had some mixed feelings about it as it seemed too extravagant a construction for a poor state lying on the physical and psychological edge of India. Nevertheless, since I was in Tripura anyway, I decided to visit and appreciate it for what it is, an engineering and architectural marvel (Even Tajmahal faces this criticism at times).

I arrived at Melaghar from Dharmanagar after visiting Unakoti. I took an early morning passenger train to Agartala (and was surprised to find the functional train). I could book a place in sitting car for a miniscule amount and the comfortable and timely journey left me at Agartala by 10 AM. The capital city seemed too big and crowded, so I decided to move on to Melaghar. I asked a few locals and someone asked me to reach Ngerjala Bus Stand by hiring an autorickshaw. At Nagerjala, many buses and shared cars were going in different directions. After a bit of an effort, I found one shared car going to my place.

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READ: Why Tripura is a Backpacker’s Paradise

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At first sight, Melaghar looks like a nondescript provincial town with a narrow road through a jam-packed market and some even narrower lanes going in all directions. However, one of those lanes eventually opens up to a vast waterbody, the Rudrasagar Lake, along with a vague but striking image of a palace on the horizon. As you move closer, you will soon realize that the palace is a real one and not just a mirage.

Neermahal from the Boat.

So, Neermahal remains the primary draw of Melaghar, which is otherwise a small town only 50 Kms away from Agartala and 22 Kms from Udaipur. It was built in the early 20th century by King Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya as he thought that he needs to have a cooler summer residence away from teh capital. He also hired a British company fto build the same. On needs boats to reach the palace in the middle of the lake. Now there are regular tourist boats for plying the visitors. They keep coming and going and costs around INR 20 per head. Also, one has to pay around INR 80 for entering the palace, upon reaching the other side.

It is a gigantic construction.

The palace itself is an excellent melange of Hindu and Muslim architectural traditions. I could not really find any information about the architect who imagined all this but clearly, they were taking inspiration from various traditions prevalent in India. I knew it was enormous but I was still taken aback by the open courtyards and gardens inside. From the topmost floors, it reminds one of those majestic Mughal constructions, but with the added attraction of the lake.

Not too many foreigners but pretty popular among locals.Unexpected framesAlso seems like a romantic escape for locals.

The Rudrasagar Lake itself also attracts a lot of birds, especially in the winter, and has been declared a Ramsar site. However, in January, the lake was somewhat dry just as the sky was dull. I did see a few cormorants and egrets, but I keep seeing them everywhere. I think this looks better in the monsoons. I could see some interior staircases going down to the basement. The boats can directly reach the interiors of the building, to these stairs. But I think it is only possible when the water levels are higher during the rains.

Rudrasagar has its own delights.This is where boats could reach directly.

I spent around an hour covering various wings of the gigantic construction. Some renovations were going on at some parts. So, I guess they have bigger plans for this one. Those minarets displayed an unmistakable Islamic influence but what I liked most was the windows, perfectly placed like picture frames, with moving boats, setting sun and glittering lakes within them.

Inner courtyard.Gardens inside the palaceUppermost floor.Islamic influence is clear from these minarets.Frames within Frames Part 1Frames within Frames Part 2Frames within Frames Part 3

I returned towards the evening.The only unpleasant part here was the maintenance of the boats or the lack of it. People were littering it all the time and also the shore of the lake has been turned into a picnic spot with loud music. I think the Royal family needs to get back to its glory days and introduce some punitive measures to sort this out.

That night I stayed at Sagar Mahal Tourist Lodge, the government accommodation and the only decent option in town, located by the side of the lake overlooking the Neermahal. It was a good room, a bit expensive at INR 700 for me, but I just wanted to give it a try to see how Tripura Tourism is doing. So, the room was good by I can’t say the same about the food. The mess is located in another building, the food was bland and soporific, and the staff seemed grossly disinterested. I’d had better food in every other place during my entire Tripura trip. I guess this is what the charm of performance delinked salary that my relatives talk about when they ask me to get a government job. Anyway, let’s not get too carried away with my propaganda. Neermahal is still worth the visit. Maybe a day trip from Agartala is enough.

 

Neermahal Travel Guide

 

How to reach Neermahal?

From the Nagerjala Bus Stand in Agartala, you will get buses and shared cas going towards Melagahr. It is around 50 Kms and should not cost you more than INR 50-60. It is a bit hard to locate teh way to teh Rudrasagar Lake from the crowded market at Melagahr. But I followed the Google Maps and arrived at the right place. Otherwise just ask someone the way to Neermahal.

Fees for Neermahal?

There are two types of fees, first you need to get a ticket for the boat (INR 10-20… dont remember exactly) and then there is an entry fee at the gate of the palace (INR 80 as far as I remmeber).

Where to stay in Melaghar?

The only decent place to stay here is the government tourist lodge called Sagar Mahal Tourist Lodge, also located by the side of the lake. Single rooms INR 700, doubles will be more. Rooms are good but the food was disappointing.

What is a good season for Neermahal?

It can be visited anytime. However, I felt that it looks better during teh rains when teh water level rises and the sky has good cloud formations. I had none during my January visit.

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Kartik Swami is a small day trek not far from Chopta. That is all I knew about it until recently and was not very sure about the route to the place. After the pleasant snow and rhododendron surprise at Chopta, I set out for Kartik Swami along with Travelshoebum, who had done some research and seemed to know the route at least. Before that, of course, we had a detour to Sari and Deoriatal. I did not want to visit it again but he was keen on visiting it.
Reaching Kanakchauri from Chopta

After some time at Deoriatal, we came down to Sari and then to the main road to Chopta, got lift in a tourist vehicle with some people from Bangalore, to a point called Banswara. The route was problematic after that. It was already evening and no public transport was likely to arrive at that point. There was a basic hotel at that point and I was prepared to stay there at night and try next morning. However, Travelshoebum kept trying and finally talked one local person called Jagdish into giving us lift and then, and he even invited us to his home for the night!

Hosts from the unknown village.
So, that night we stayed at Jagdish’s place. His village was actually a long way beyond the point where we had to take a turn for the temple. The road was horrible after that point and we reached at around 9 pm. We had no clue where we were and wondered if we should just have stayed at that hotel in the earlier point. But eventually it turned out to be a good experience with his family and they were generous with the food.
The next morning, after some discussion, he also agreed to drop us at the trekking point because the public transport was scarce and was going to waste a lot of time. We agreed to pay him a little something for the fuel cost for this extra round and yet again we were going through uncharted territories. I have said it before but I need to say it again, the popular pilgrim routes of Garhwal have been commercialized excessively and they don’t even have the hippie vibes of Himachal. You either need to go higher, or take these offbeat routes to experience true Garhwal.
Peaks visible even at the start of the trek.
Anyway, we were at the starting point of the trek at Kanakchauri by 9.30 AM. We bad adieu to Jagdishji, we will probably never meet again but he saved this phase of the trip. The majestic peaks were already visible even from that point, beyond the few small shops selling pooja items. Since it was spring, they were also selling rhododendron juice that rejuvenated tired legs and we started the hike.
Trek to Kartik Swami Temple
It was a bright sunny day with no haze and the peaks at a distance were clearly visible. I felt that a slightly cloudy sky could make it look more dramatic but you can’t always be lucky. The trek is around 3 KMs long and is one of the easier treks I have ever done. Although the trail passes through a jungle stretch, the temple is always visible in the horizon and the jungle mostly consists of non-threatening rhododendrons. I’d had an overdose of rhododendrons in Chopta and so these comparatively sparse flowering did not rerally impress me.
Can’t miss the rhododendrons in this region
Peaks and more peaks…
At the priest’s place
We moved in quick speed and after 1.5 Hours, we were almost there, at the lower base of the temple, where the priest lives. The information plaque set up by Tourism Department here recounts the story of Kartikeya. For those who are not familiar, Kartikeya is the elder son of Shiva & Parvati. In many traditions he is represented as a warrior god, who rides a peacock, thus making him cooler than most. Since this area is full of major Shiva Shrines, the “Panch Kedars“, it is not surprising that his son also has a separate temple, along with a hilltop for himself.
The last flight of stairs
There is a small Shiva Temple at the base and then there is one last flight of stairs, that finally takes you to the Kartik Swami Temple. The original relic inside the temple is believed to be a naturally formed image of the god on a marble-like stone. There are other statues and wall paintings depicting Kartik as well as his peacock. I was expecting more ancient relics but could not really locate them.
Original Relic

 

Kartikeya on his peacock
Nevertheless, the primary draw of this temple has always been the views rather than the archaeological remains. Now we were at the top of the 3000-metre hill and getting 360 degree views of the much higher peaks on the horizon. From Chaukhamba to Bandarpunch and from Neelkanth to Trishul, there are scores of speaks visible from here although don’t ask me which one is which. I have never been very good at identifying peaks.
Kartik Swami Temple
For Whom the Bell Tolls…
For Whom the Bell Tolls… Part II
Beyond the temple, there is a deep gorge on the other side, covered with dense forests. I looked down from the edge, but my views was blocked by another rhododendron tree. Anyway, we had seen enough by then and we started the return, which took another hour. I bought a bottle of buransh (rhododendron) juice and the bus to Rudraprayag had arrived too.
Dense forests of the warrior god.
The last Rhododendron on the edge
The Buransh season is one.
Kartik Swami Travel Guide Where and what is Kartik Swami? chopta-tungnath-deoria-tal-kartik-swamy-trek-map

As you can see from the map, Kartik Swami is located on a slightly different route from Chopta to Rudraprayag, but not too far away. It is basically a temple on a hill top, dedicated to Kartik, the son of Shiva. A short 3 KM hike starts from a place called Kanakchauri, 40 KMs from Rudraprayag.

Why visit Kartik Swami?

Apart from the temple, you can get an excellent view of many peaks from here on a clear day. You can 360-degree unobstructed views from the top and even at the starting point, the peaks are visible. The whole stretch is covered with rhododendrons that turn the forest red in the spring.

How to Reach Kartik Swami?
  1. From Rishikesh take a bus to Rudraprayag (140 KMs). From there just look for buses going to Pokhari. Kanakachauri is on the way (40 KMs) and you will reach easily in an hour and a half.
  2. However, if you are coming from Chopta side, there will be no direct connectivity. In that case the suggested route is Chopta-Ukhimath-Banswara-Mohankhal-Kanakchauri. You may have to change your vehicle (mostly shared cars) at each of these points or hope to get a lift by some generous local like we did.
Where to stay in Kartik Swami?

We just did the trek and came out to Rudraprayag without staying. There is an expensive-ish accommodation at Kanakchauri as per my knowledge that costs INR 1500-2500 per room, which was way beyond my budget. However, one can also stay near the temple, where the priest stays. You need to build a rapport with the priest for this. Also, there is a Forest Rest House at nearby Mohankhal (see map). Otherwise juat make a day trip from Rudraprayag, which is a big town with many options.

If you need a complete guide on all the major treks in the Chopta-Tungnath area, read my complete Chopta Travel Guide.

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With 19,485 square kilometres of wilderness, Kruger National Park is one of the biggest animal reserves in Africa and the ultimate king of the wild. There are 507 bird species, 114 reptiles, 40 fish species, 34 amphibians, 147 mammals, and over 2,300 plants scattered across the luscious South African park. There’s so much to see on the reserve and to make the best out of your trip, you definitely need to plan ahead. Before you make your itinerary, be sure to check out these travel tips for visiting the greatest animal park in the world.

Best Time to Visit

Kruger National Park is open year-round, but each season brings different experiences. If your goal is to see as much wildlife as possible, then it’s best to visit the reserve during dry winter months. This is between the months of June and October when the grass is low and trees are sparse. During this time, you’ll have perfect views of the wildlife. However, if you have the right spotting equipment, you can still see animals during other months. Towards the end of the year between late November and early December, the park is filled with newborns which creates amazing memories. Since the animals become more protective during this time though, you may not see as much wildlife as you’d hope.

What Animals You Will Spot

Kruger National Park is one of the few areas in the world where you’ll find every member of the Big Five in one place. The Big Five consists of rhinos, elephants, lions, leopards, and the Cape buffalo. Although this is why most people come to the park, you can also find animals such as hyenas, crocodiles, hippos, zebra, giraffes, and bucks. There are many apps that you can download to help you track down your favourite animal, but you should pick an area that you like and stick to it. The south part of the park is cheaper and more touristy than the rest, but it is where you will find the most game. The Central region has the best landscape views and is less touristy, but the animals are more likely to hide in the thick bushes. Lastly, if you’re a bird lover then the northern regions are the best for you. Here it is sandier and tropical so you’ll find birds that are completely unseen in the South.

What to Pack for Your Trip

A stay at a national reserve is not like any other type of vacation. You will need to pay extra close attention to what you pack. Be sure to pack lots of extra clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. You’ll need to get down in the weeds if you want to get up close and personal with some of the animals. You should also be sure to carry cash with you at all times to tip any guides and bring portable chargers so that your cameras are ready for your entire trip. If you’re going to rent a car, be sure that it has off-road capabilities. A car with four-wheel drive will help you find the hard to spot animals and make your trip worthwhile.

Be realistic about your trip. The area has a motto that says “This is Africa” which means anything can happen. Don’t treat your vacation like a trip to the zoo and instead be prepared for a night out in the wild.

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“After the final stretch of ascent, we found ourselves in front of a small but photogenic, avocado green waterfall. But this is the not the main Atri Muni fall, we were informed. We pushed harder and reached the much taller and formidable waterfall after 5 minutes. “Now we must circumambulate this one”, we were told again, as we kept ogling at the fall in disbelief.”

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I generally write about a place as soon as I visit it, especially if the place is exciting enough. But this is one travelogue that had been pending for a long time. I met certain interesting people en route who wanted me not to write about them too much because they did not want too much attention that could affect their peaceful lives. So, I kept wondering if I should write about the place at all. However, I can see that this trek is not that obscure after all. There are other posts on it available online. Also, I think some of the archaeological items here need to be known by the rest of the world. So, I have decided to write about it, but I will be withholding certain details about the place and there be no mention of those people. Those who really seek can find the same anyway and those who pretend to seek can go to Kasol again.

Coming back to the point, I was at Gopeshwar the previous night. I met the Chopta- bound team of Travelshoebum, Pushpendra and a couple of other travellers from Europe. I have described the rest of the trip in my earlier post on Chopta Rhododendrons. But even before that, it was decided that we do another trek, something I had not heard of before, the trek to Anusuya Devi Temple and then the trek to Atri Muni.

Mandal Village

After a short drive, we reached Mandal, a small village on the road going towards Chopta from Gopeshwar. It is small Garhwali village with a couple of roadside restaurants where we had breakfast. The car cut the distance by a kilometre or so and left us at the starting point of the trek, where there was a bridge over a hilly stream. The temple of Anusuya Devi was 4-5 Kms away from here. So, we started trekking slowly.

Bridge near Mandal VillageThe Trek StartsMandal Rock Inscriptions (6th century)

Interestingly, at this point, Pushpendra told us about another important attraction here, the Mandal Rock inscriptions dating back to 6th century. It was found on the weather-beaten rock on the left side of the trek, around 500 metres before the Anasuya Temple. It lied unattended and unsung for centuries but recently a shed has been built over it along with an informational plaque by the ASI.

Still a long way to go

We reached the Rock Inscriptions after slightly more than an hour or so. It is not in a very good shape. Apparently it is written in Sanskrit using Northern Brahmi script. As per the details mentioned on the ASI plaque, The inscription mentions one Kshatriya Naravarman under the aegis of King Saravarman constructed a temple and a water-reservoir for the merit of himself and his parents. Other details are not mentioned, including the exact dynasty of the king but on the basis of palaeography it has been dated back to mid-6th century AD. So, the king mentioned is believed to be Maukhari King Sarvavarman who ruled sometime around 570-580 AD.

Now, the Maukhari‘s are not a very well-known dynasty. But I remember from school days that they originally ruled Kannauj and had a marital alliance with Thanesar. After the death of their last king, it became a part of Thanesar under Harshavardhan, a much better known name in Indian history.

Mandal Rock InscriptionAnusuya Devi Temple

Coming back to the trek, we continued moving upwards and around 15-20 minutes after the rock inscription, reached an open meadow in the middle of the mountains and the temple of Anusuya Devi also became visible. It was basically a small village built around the temple. As usual, the temple has the traditional structure of these hill temples but many of the parts seemed to have been renovated recently. But there were many ancient relics scattered around the compound. Some of them must be from the days of those people mentioned in that rock inscription.

Open meadow after the trek.At the villageAnasuya Mata Temple

At this point, I also need to talk about the myths associated with the ones after whom these shrines were named. Anusuya worshipped in this temple was the wife of Atri Muni, one of the seven great Vedic sages known as the “Saptarshis”. The Big Dipper, a part of the constellation Ursa Major is known as the Saptarshi Mandal in India named after those seven sages. Anyone with basic knowledge of astronomy can spot this group of seven starts in a clear sky. Anusuya herself was famous on her own and you will find the stories with a bit of googling. Anyway, the temple is dedicated to her while Sage Atri believed to have meditated higher up near the waterfall and that is why that area is named after him.

Ancient Tree with gigantic trunk.Scattered relics at the temple (3)Scattered relics at the temple (4)Scattered relics at the temple (2)Scattered relics at the temple (1)Scattered relics at the temple (5)Atri Muni Waterfalls and Shrine

After some time at Anasuya Devi, we started moving up again. This trail is less frequented by people and covered with dense foliage. It took around an hour to cover this part and finally wea reached the waterfalls mentioned at the beginning of this post. The first fall was beautiful but it was a faux finale. We were told to move on and after crossing the stream created by the waterfall, and hiking for five more minutes, we finally got a glimpse of the actual Atri Muni fall.

Bridge crossing the stream of the first waterfall.The first waterfallThe first waterfall, vertical view.Towards the final destination.

It was a thin but pretty steep fall creating a bright green pool at the bottom. We first thought that our job was done but then we got a minor shock when we were told that the real adventure begins now! The actual shrine of Atri Muni is located behind the fall and real devotees must take a round of the fall! If that is not enough, the route to the back of the fall goes through a narrow 10 inch opening on the edge of the gorge. Everyone must crawl through it. I am not trying to body-shame anyone but anyone with an ample stomach will find it really hard.

First glimpse of the Atri Muni Fall.Narrow but steepThat’s right… you need to go behind the fall.

Anyway, after moments of hesitation, we climbed a few rocks (an iron chain has been installed here to provide support) and then crawled through that rock along with some local devotees. Sorry for the blurry image but that is the only one I could click with my phone in that life and death situation.

Crawl to conquer.Looks even steeper from here.

It was not that hard after the crawl. The small shrine is located just after that and then we walked right behind the waterfall and then climb down to the starting point through a longer route. This last part was slightly difficult because we had removed the shoes before the crawl..

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If you are a home owner and you are looking to hit the road for a new travel adventure, it is important that you have made sure that your home will be in good shape for when you go away. There are enough things to worry about when you go traveling, without having to occupy yourself with what is going on with your property back home. As with many things, the key to ensuring that you can alleviate yourself of worries about the home, is in the preparation. For peace of mind and home security, here is how to get your home in shape when you go traveling.

Home Insurance

Home insurance is not obligatory but it would be foolish to go traveling without being safe in the knowledge that you are covered against any issues with the home. Is it time to renew your home insurance policies? If so then make sure that you research your best prices, and go get that cover, if you don’t currently have home insurance then you need to ensure that you have covered your home, before you go away. Should something go wrong when you are not there, you need to have cover, or else it could end up costing you great deal of money.

Calling For Help

If you are going traveling for more than a week or so it makes sense to have a friend or family member who lives nearby, to go and check your home whilst you are not there. The last thing that you will want is to come home from your travels to find that something has gone wrong, ask around to see if someone could check the home out for you, and give them a key in case they need to access the property.

The Big Switch Off

Insurance may cover you against something going wrong with the property, but you should still be looking at minimizing that risk in any way that you can. Prior to leaving you should ensure that you have switched off the water, gas and electric, in order to avoid maintenance issues. If you have a fridge or a freezer, be sure to empty them before turning the electric off or you may come back to some unsightly scenes.

Thief Aware

Naturally the fact that your home won’t see any action for some time means that it could be a potential target for thieves. To lower the risk of theft, think about asking whoever is checking on the house to open and close curtains, or to leave their car there for the odd night. You should also look at using timers on your lamps, so that the house looks occupied on an evening. Naturally you should ensure that all windows and doors are locked, and that your high value items are either hidden from sight, or put in storage to keep them safe.

The last thing you need on your travels is stress, so make sure that you prepare in the right way to lock your house down before you go.

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The living root bridges of Meghalaya are probably the most unique feats of primitive bio-engineering in the world. Also, I think that the waterfalls of Meghalaya are the most beautiful in India, and I say this after visiting many others in the higher Himalayas. Nongriat is the place that has a combination of both of these primary attractions of Meghalaya. The double-decker living root bridge is the biggest of all root bridges, while the Rainbow Falls, I think is one of the most beautiful waterfall in the state. So, a trip to Nongriat was pending for a long time!
Meghalaya needs no introduction and nor do I intend to provide one. It is actually the most developed of all Northeastern states in terms of tourism infrastructure and it is a stone’s throw away from Guwahati, my estranged hometown. Yet, ironically so far I have done very limited explorations in this state. I visited Shillong and Cherrapunjee many years ago on family trips from Guwahati. I was not a travel writer back then and did not even have a camera. Also, family trip meant just a quick visit to touristy attractions and no genuine explorations and definitely no trekking. After starting the travel blog, I have made a couple of middling trips to Meghalaya, to Riwai-Mawlynnong and to Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival.
This is why, I had been planning for more Meghalaya trips of late. As I was planning the trip, I happened to had an interaction with Vaibhav of Greener Pastures, a new age tour agency focusing on the Northeastern parts of India. So, Greener Pastures offered to arrange my stays for a Meghalaya trip. The original plan was to cover a lot more places but due to some external factors, the trip was cut short. Nevertheless, I managed to complete the Trek to Nongriat and the Rainbow Falls beyond it.
Cherrapunjee to Tyrna
So, I reached  Cherrapunjee at around 7pm after some unexpected delays due to a traffic situation near Shillong. I settled down at Patent Homestay and decided to start as early as possible the next morning. Nevertheless, it was around 8.30 am by the time I reached the market and I could see no affordable transport. I was told that there are shared cars plying on that route but I saw none. There is apparently a bus too but that comes after an hour or so and I did not want to wait that long. I asked a few local drivers. One guy even quoted 500 and Mother 400. But finally I stumbled on one who quoted 250 but brought it down to 200 for a drop at Tyrna village, the starting point of the trek. It took around 40 minutes and the second half of the ride seemed to pass through a desolated area. However, Tyrna seemed like a pretty big village with a big church dominating the landscape. This area is also highly developed in terms of tourism. There were many resorts and lodges along the way and at Tyrna too.
Trek from Tyrna to Nongriat Double-Decker Living Root Bridge
The car dropped me at the starting point. There were few small shops selling basic food items, few young boys selling bamboo canes to be used as trekking poles, and a few other guys trying to offer their services as guides. I bought a pole for 20, ignored the rest and started the trek. Unlike most other treks, this trek starts in the reverse fashion, i.e. it is a significant descent right at the beginning and coming is when you do most of the upward hiking, thus making the return much more difficult.
Steep Stairs to Nongriat.
I wanted to get done with the descent as soon as possible. So I started fast, negotiating those 3000 (or whatever… There are different numbers available online) stairs quickly. The first thing I noticed was that the stairs were quite steep, which made me even more worried about the return. The trail was simple and I was following two local girls ahead of me, so I thought there will be no confusion. However, after a while, they stopped, looked behind, and asked me for directions. That is when I realized that they were clueless Malaysian tourists and not locals!
Anyway, we the route was still fairly simple and after half an hour, we were effectively at the midpoint of the trail. There is a small village here too, along with a couple of small shops selling lemon juice, Maggi, biscuits, etc. This village has another living root bridge, which is a few metres walk from the stairs. However I was eager to reach Nongriat, so I quickly gave up on that one and continued moving.
After another five minutes, the river appeared along one of those famous suspension bridges. The bridge was shaky but the blue of the river was exactly like the ones I had seen in the pictures online (but thought them to be zealously edited). So, enjoy these colours. I can assure you that I have not enhanced the colours.
After another five minutes of that bridge, I reached another suspension bridge. This one was longer and but sturdier than the previous one. The other side of the bridge is practically Nongriat but you need to climb a few stairs to reach the main village. I quickly climbed them up and reached the  village, located amidst a thick grove of betel but (areca) trees. Soon, I also came across a living root bridge but this is not a famous one, this was a smaller one that you need to cross to enter the village. Apparently there are scores of root bridges in this region.
The first suspension bridge.
Surreal colour of the River.
Second Suspension Bridge. At Nongriat Village and root bridge
The first thing I noticed was the Serene Homestay, which is very famous among travellers. However, my stay was booked at The Village Resthouse (or Village Guesthouse), which was nowhere to be seen. I called up the guy and he asked me to cross the double-decker. After a few minutes of meandering in the village, I reached the double-decker root bridge, crossed it, and finally located my homestay, on the other edge of the village. It had very basic facilities but a ceiling fan attracted my attention. You rarely see fans in Shillong or Cherrapunjee but this area is hot and humid as it is a significant descent from the plateau where Cherrapunjee is located.
After keeping my stuff in the room, I came out to have a closer look at the bridge. It was not much different from the one I saw at Riwai-Mawlynnong but it simply had two layers. I am sure any self respecting traveller already know what slicing root bridge is so I am not going to Edwin it again. But I would just like to say that these ones are far more stable than the suspension bridges made of iron. At least they don’t shake when you pass through them. However, I am now somewhat worried about their future because they are receiving increasing number of tourists. Even when I reached, it was teeming with visitors. The stream over which the bridge is built is now a place for tourists to bath and pose for selfies. I wonder how much load it can take!
Double-decker living root bridge
Small waterfall near the root bridge.
View from the Root Bridge.
The Root Bridge is getting a bit too popular for its own good.
Trek to Rainbow Falls
Nevertheless, after some rest and a bowl of instant noodles on a snack on the bank of that stream, I decided to take up the next part of the adventure, i.e. the trek to the Rainbow Falls. Normally people do it on the second morning but I had limited time and it was only 12 noon. I asked a local guy and he told me it will take 1.5 hrs to reach. So I backed myself to visit it and return to my homestay by the evening.
The route was the one that just passed by my homestay. There was no signage and I had no guide. But I decided to keep doing in pursuit of a valiant failure like I had in Dzukou once. The forest was dense and full of exotic trees and flowers. Among the familiar ones, I saw a lot of jackfruits growing in the wild. Also, as I have written on previous occasions, Meghalaya is one of the best places in India finally butterflies. I saw many of them although failed to capture decent photographs.
The first half an hour was an easy series of ascents and descents. I came across another suspension bridge, even shakier than the previous ones. It was immediately followed by another living root bridge and the trailer seemed to be disappearing into the woods after this point.
The Shakiest Bridge of the Trip.
Another root bridge!
Actually the real trek starts after this point. The “stairs” give way to hilly trails and it is a continuous ascent after that which takes the maximum amount of time and effort. At this point I started hearing sounds, the kind of event Ind you hear when the waterfall is in the vicinity. Due to the jungle and the hills not was not visible but the echoes were watching my ears. I kept going till a point when I saw a hint of turquoise blue through a a small hole in the middle of thick green foliage. For a moment I thought this was my destination but it could not be so easy. I had trekked for less than an hour. At that time I saw a few guys returning from the other side and and they verified that the Rainbow Falls is still half an hour away. I did see a few small trails going towards the water but I think this was what some people call the blue lagoon of Nongriat, an ideal natural pool for swimming. However, I was more eager to visit the rainbow falls and so I moved on.
The portions after this were even more steep and slippery. Thankfully it was not raining although the day was gloomy. I think on a rainy day this stretch will be really hard to negotiate. Anyway, after 20 more minutes, I was beginning to get tired, but finally I saw a waterfall. It did not look like the one I was looking for. This was again a decoy but after another 10 mins I finally reached the point from where I could see the glimpse of the actual Rainbow Falls with all the colours intact from the photographs I’d seen before.
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Photo: Kadambattu- Srangib/Pixabay

Surrounded by enormous mountains, gorgeous landscapes and picturesque locales, Coorg is a hill station that will warm your hearts. Aptly known as the “Scotland of India”, this beautiful destination will make you feel like you have stepped into an Amazonian rainforest.

This quaint little town is extremely popular across the country for its delicious coffee, spices like cardamom and black pepper, and eucalyptus leaves. Apart from this, Coorg or Kodagu is also renowned for its authentic Kodava cuisine. A staple amongst locals and a speciality of this region is Sannakki, a fragrant kind of rice. Besides this, there are a number of non-vegetarian dishes that are extremely popular here.

If you are planning a trip to this stunning destination, you must try these five local street food items that will surely tantalise your taste buds:

1. Bamboo Shoot Curry: This dish is commonly cooked during monsoons. The bamboo shoots are plucked before they get too hard and then they are salted and frozen for a while. Later, the shoots are peeled off, and the tender part of it is cooked to perfection in a boiling bowl of curry.
2. Pandi Curry: This is a very popular dish in Coorg. Pandi curry or pork curry is usually served in a thali consisting of akki roti or some rice. When in Coorg, you must try this dish because the town’s magic adds to it, making it ten times more delicious.
3. Akki Roti: This is a staple breakfast item made with cooked rice. Akki roti can be served with ‘ellu pajji’ or sesame seed chutney, and also pandi curry – a combination that you must definitely try.
4. Chicken Curry or Koli Curry: Coconut is a main ingredient in this dish. Usually served with kadambattu or rice balls, this lip-smacking chicken curry is teeming with fresh spices and coconut to create an amazing mix of flavours.
5. Kadambattu: These are steamed rice dumplings or rice balls. They form an important part of the Kodava cuisine and are usually included in all the festivals and weddings here.

While most of these local dishes are easily available on the streets, you can also find these delicacies at some of the Coorg resorts too. For instance, the Club Mahindra Madikeri Resort, as well as the Virajpet Resort, offer a plethora of local dishes made by their expert chefs with exceptional culinary skills. You can either choose to order from their indigenous menu or even try out some of their popular continental dishes.

Apart from its amazing hospitality and delectable food, the resort offers various other activities that will tick all the boxes off your ‘things to do in Coorg’ checklist. However, before you make your bookings, make sure you check the Club Mahindra reviews to learn more about their offerings and services.

Plan a vacation with Club Mahindra today & have a pleasant and memorable stay at Coorg resorts with family.

 

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I dragged myself, defying the blazing sun and all the physical limitations induced by my nonexistent fitness regime, to finally reach a point high enough to experience the full glory of the confluence of Spiti and Pin Rivers and their glittering floodplains. The Dhankar Monastery was looking glorious, but it was still far away. Floating clouds were casting moving shadows on the distant plains but not over my head. With such views in front of me, I should have felt like gods but with all the physical exertion, I was feeling like a mule (PETA disclaimer).

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Reaching Dhankar

The previous night, I explored various options for reaching Dhankar but at the end obviously opted for the least expensive option. I was told that a local Kaza bound bus will drop me at Shichilling, from where generous locals will give me a lift. So, the next morning I reached the bus stand at Tabo but the bus was nowhere to be seen. There were many foreign tourists waiting there too but they lost patience and decided to pay extra and hire a car. But I stayed back, along with Mike from New York, who was on his 3rd India trip. He apparently returns to countries after decades to see how they have evolved. The bus finally arrived at around 10:30 am and left us at Shichilling after an hour. That place has a few small restaurants and even a homestay. The road goes towards Kaza but a small diversion ascends towards Dhankar. In fact the village and the monastery can be seen from the road itself. Mike and I decided to start trekking along the road and ask for lift whenever they arrive.

It was a bright, sunny day and due to the late start, we ended up trekking at high noon. As it can be expected in a desert, there were no trees and not even a man-made structure providing shade. I used up my water reserves soon. Actually, I deliberately did not carry much water to lessen the weight of my backpack. Anyways, after a couple of hours of trekking, we reached the aforementioned vantage point. The views were rewarding, especially the wild roses, but it was tiresome and we were only halfway through.

We did not come across any local vehicles going that way. Here I must mention that the road has been newly built and pretty smooth. We saw some tourist vehicles, already packed with people, generally packed with close-knit tourist groups, probably families, who couldn’t care less about us. We extended our thumbs and they gave us figurative middle fingers. I have always sucked at hitchhiking anyway.

At Tenzin’s Homestay

We reached the village at around 4 pm and looked for a place to spend the night. The first one we came across was a reasonably big concrete building with all the facilities. But it was sticking out like a sore thumb in the otherwise medieval setup. Besides, it was surely not owned by the locals. We did not want to pay some random guy, probably from Delhi or Bombay, when the poor natives required it more. So, we went ahead, an eventually stumbled on a young local guy who called himself Tenzin and claimed to have rooms and quoted INR 400 for a nigh including 3 servings of food. I don’t remember the name of the homestay or probably it had no name. But the rooms were cozy although the placed lacked a proper bathroom. But for a night it was manageable and we had the satisfaction of helping out a local family living a hard life. He served chow-mien and tea and we dozed off for a while after all the hard work.

Dhankar Monastery

We got up after 6 pm but it was still pretty bright outside. So, we decided to visit the Dhankar Monastery. This gompa is also around 1000 years old, just like the one in Tabo. But what sets it apart is the setting. It is precariously located atop a very steep and narrow cliff, just somehow hanging in there. I wonder how it even survived a millennium! But I am not the first person to think so. In 2006, World Monuments Fund included it as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world.

 

It is also built more like a fort. Probably the geopolitical compulsions back in those times necessitated it. We went in, visiting floor after floor for dark rooms filled with intricately drawn “thangkas” that I was not knowledgeable enough to decipher. At the topmost floor, we met the resident monk who was in charge. Among other things, he mentioned that unlike Tabo, this monastery is not receiving much help from the government and the conservation and renovation efforts are done with the money collected through donation.

Two things particularly attracted my attention, a large, stuffed ram and more importantly some tridents with happy emojis on them. I think it depicts Tibetan Buddhisms’s deep Tantric roots and Indic connection but I wish I could study more about this subject.

We came out and clicked a few more photographs of the village and the river from the top. It was past 7 pm but still pretty bright although the shadows were getting longer.

Dhankar Fort:

We started looking for the Dhankar Fort, which is apparently even older than the gompa. It was the original power center of Spiti, when Dhankar used to be its capital in the ancient times. As of now, it is an abandoned mud and brick structure with wooden staircases. However, one can still go inside and climb up to the terrace. It is even higher than the monastery and offers 360-degree views of the village and the valley.

An Austere Feast:

That night, we realized soon that the village does not have regular electricity (or at least our place did not have). I was feeling sleepy but Tenzin informed that the dinner is ready. Mike gave up and fell asleep but I thought since they had taken the trouble to cook it, I should try it. He led me to the vast open dining room that also had light, probably with the help of a generator. The room was full of dragon imagery including ones on the wall that he claimed to have painted himself. There was also a stuffed fox that apparently had to be eliminated as it was eyeing their precious cattle. Now it hangs by the side of a framed, smiling photograph of Tenzin!

Then he brought in the food, basically a plate of momos and a bowl of clear soup. This low light, phone image does not do justice to it. Now, this momo was completely different from what I am used to. It was made of local flour which had a rough texture. The filling was mostly of local potatoes. Those were the best momos I’d ever had. And the bowl of coriander soup, I felt, worked like an aphrodisiac. So, I did not ask for more even though I wanted to. He did not reveal the full recipe of the soup though.

Dhankar, in a sense, remained the high point of my Spiti trip, with later parts of the trip going haywire due to various reasons. Nevertheless, this remains my finest experience of witnessing an ancient Tibetan monastery in a cold desert and I must visit those in Ladakh to match up to this experience. Till then you can read this post about some of the most ancient monasteries in Ladakh by fellow travel blogger Lakshmi.

The next morning we left soon as there was a guy leaving for Kaza on his car agreed to take us. I wanted to visit the lake which is a short hike above the village but I was yet to recover from the previous day’s trek. But I can surely return here again and complete that part, probably this winter. Now that would be something really hardcore!

Dhankar Travel Guide How to Reach Dhankar

The road to Dhankar Village and Monastery starts from a small settlement called Sichling, which is on the road between Kaza to Tabo, around 24-25 KMs from both sides. From Sichling the road to Dhankar is around 8 KMs and it gradually ascends towards the village. 

Is the Dhankar Road Motorable? 

Yes, it is completely motorable from the diversion at SIchling to the Dhankar Village at the top. However, there is no public transport like bus to the village. So, you need your own vehicle, or ask for lift, or end up hiking the whole distance like I did.

Dhankar Bus Timings

Catch the Kaza to Peo bus at around 7.30 AM and reach Sichling in just an hour or so. If you are coming from Tabo, look for Sumdo-Kaza bus, which reaches Tabo at around 9.30-10 AM (Most people don’t know about the second bus). That should also leave you at Sichling in an hour or so. From Sichling, hitchhike or just hike.

Things to do in Dhankar

Like any other place in Spiti, people came here for the sheer views than any specific attraction. Nevertheless, there are three specific points here at DHankar in case you need.

  1. Dhankar Monastery: The thousand year old Gompa is among the oldest and most important in the frontier Himalayas of India. It is also located in a very peculiar fashion, at the edge of the cliff, that has to be seen to be believed.
  2. Dhankar Fort: This structure is even older than Dhankar Monastery. It is not in a very good shape now but you can still enter and climb up to higher storeys for excellent views of the valley.
  3. Dhankar Lake: Dhankar Lake is beautiful high altitude lake, a hike further from the village. I regret not doing it as I was too tired after the hike to the village itself. But try if you can. It should take slightly more than an hour or so to reach the lake from the village.
Homestays and Hotels in Dhankar

Dhankar Village has many hotels and homestays. Many families have converted their homes to homestays while a couple of mainstream hotels have also cropped up near the village. The hotels have all the modern faciltities but it will be run by some outsider and you will not get the intimate experience of staying with a family. Homestays are what I support although they maybe lacking some facilities you are used to, such as modern toilets and electricity. But I guess for one night, you can manage it like I did.

Homestay rates in Dhankar

Back in 2016, I paid only INR 300 for stay + 3 times food! I did not bargain, this is what he quoted himself. It may have icnreased a bit now but still, you should be sorted within INR 500.

Phone and data connectivity in Dhankar

BSNL SIMs should work for calling. Don’t expected anything else. Data connectivity is a far cry.

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