Sainj Valley, unlike Kullu, is away from tourist capitalism and is not as widely popular. Snuggled in the arms of the Kullu Valley and situated at the lower areas of Great Himalayan National Park(GHNP), this offbeat destination is ideal for those who wish to explore the uncharted regions of the valley. Sainj, along with Tirthan Valley, forms the GHNP, which is now a UNESCO world heritage site. These apart, there are tower temples spotted here and there, vast, unending meadows and narrow trails passing through an idyllic landscape.
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Things to Do in Sainj Valley
The tourism here is not fully organised. It is for you to explore. But those who have already visited the place insist that a trip to the temples in the valley is a must.
Shangchul Mahadev Temple - Located in Shangarh, the temple sits majestically on an expansive meadow. The main temple was gutted in a fire in 1998 but was soon restored by the villagers. The multi-storeyed building with intricate wooden carvings is a sight to marvel at. Smaller temples are scattered all around the place, with many mythological stories woven around it.
Shangarh meadow is more beautiful than the famed and most-frequented Khajjiar. A visit to the place when in Sainj is a must. To reach Shangarh, one can take a bus from Aut bound for Neuli, and get down at Ropa. From here, the temple is 10 km away.
Pundrik Rishi Lake – The lake remains dry today, yet, it is a good place to visit if you have loads of time. The place is filled with countless beliefs and stories. One is not supposed to touch the water here. If you happen to visit the place, do ask the locals about the origin of the lake.
Shanshar – A village located at a distance of 10-15 km from Neahi. It shelters the most-talked-about Manu Temple. There are also others, including Ashapuri and Budha Narayan. These temples, built of stone and wooden structures and having a gabled roof, reflect the art and architecture of the locals.
The Manu Temple, believed to be hundreds of years old, is built in Pagoda style. There is one more temple dedicated to Manu at Talyara village, which opens up to a view of the far-reaching valley and mountains of the GHNP.
Treks and Trails in Sainj Valley
There are a number of treks, ranging from simpler ones that take only hours to difficult ones that take more a week.
Raktisar Trek – Starting at Neuli, this riverside trek goes up to Raktisar, the place where the river Sainj originates. It will take 7 days to cover the 92 km path. The best time to trek here is April-June or October and November.
Tirthan Trek – Trekkers also love to cross from one, Sainj valley, to another, Tirthan valley, for the path winds through dense forests and alongside streams. One may get to find a lot of walnut trees. Be on the lookout for medicinal plants too. The trek not just offers a transition from one valley to another, but also a lot of opportunities to observe wildlife and nature up close. The trek takes one around 8-9 days. Again, this trek is only for seasonal trekkers.
Jiwa Nala Trek – This path takes one amidst dense forests and lakes, with overarching views of the Himalayan mountains. One will come across two passes, Kandi Galu at 3,700 metres and Phangchi Galu at 4,700 metres. This too will take around 9 days. Note: A permit is required to undertake this trek. You can get the permits from the GHNP office at Sainj village.
Lapah-Shumga Trek – This trek by far is the most difficult one as it takes one to the highest altitude at 12,500 ft. The sceneries range from meadows to jungles to open landscapes with mountains bordering along. Beginning at Shangarh, there is a defined trail up to Lapah, where one can set up camps. From here, the path leads one into thickets before arriving at Shumga. While the above four treks are only meant for experienced trekkers, there are other shorter trails which can be taken by the novice.
Shangarh – Lapah – This is one of the most beautiful trails offering serene views of the surrounding valley.
Best Time To Visit to Visit Sainj Valley
November- January is the best time to behold the snow-capped mountains. But the climate remains pleasant all year round. Avoid extreme rainy seasons.
Where To Stay in Sainj Valley
There are a few decent places to stay at Sainj and Shangarh. There is one, Forest Rest House Ropa, located on the banks of the river Sainj. There is a forest guest house at Lapah. Other than these, there are a few homestays too.