After a few nights in Charanag in Hallan Valley, a small town tucked away from the crowd of Manali, in Himachal Pradesh, it was time to relax, and lose myself in oblivion, yet once again. And Sethan sounded like a perfect name.
Located approximately an hour’s drive from Manali, Sethan was definitely a place for slow travellers – at least during winters, when the snow still claimed the ground and any movement beyond this tiny Buddhist town, was pretty much impossible – unless you’re conquering glaciers. I sure wasn’t!
In the month of March, and with mercury still falling beyond zero for most of the hours in a day, the valley here was draped in white. Little flakes of happiness were everywhere!
From Sethan, one can see the towering Dhauladhar ranges surrounding the village, and the river Beas flowing right next to it – perhaps a few thousand feet down.
The inhabitants here were originally migrated from Tibet, and represent a Buddhist community who share their roots being horse herders in their past. They were given land in the surrounding areas by the then Government of India when Himachal Pradesh was still a part of Punjab.
Most of them move to the lower altitude towns in Kullu Valley, during winters, leaving Sethan a beautifully deserted town, before moving back in summer again, and resuming their usual farming business. But with its less than 20 houses and a couple of tourist homes Sethan, around the year, remains a beautiful offbeat location meant to relax, unwind and just be!
Things To Do
Since Sethan sits at an altitude of 2700m above sea level (almost 700m higher than Manali), it offers a combination of winter and summer adventure activities. One can compare it with the likes of Solang Valley minus the crowd.
Between December and March, Sethan receives heavy snowfall making its grassy land ideal for skiing, snowboarding and snow-hiking. And thanks to its offbeat location and no chair-lift, the chances of bumping into a fellow skier is always next to none. Though you may bump into a bear, if you’re that unlucky, but rest assured, you will enjoy the exclusivity of the place. During summer, the place is ideal for camping and trekking.
[Also Read: My First Snowboarding Experience In Sethan]
I was told that the land around Sethan has some religious significance too. Around 2 kilometres from the town lies Pandu Ropa – a place where Pandavas (before the time of Mahabharata) stayed and camped. They also used a part of the land to grow crops and that is the way, as it’s believed, that part of land can never be found dry. If you move further and dare to trek for a few days towards the east, you will end up at Indrasana Peak (6200m), which is believed to be the throne of Indra (or the Rain God).
Where To Stay
Since Sethan is a small town housing no more than 20 properties, the accommodation is fairly limited. You can either choose to stay in a real Igloo, which of course sounds a bit interesting, but it costs you a whopping five thousand Rupees per night per person. Else you can opt for a comparatively cheaper option and for a family-home-turned-tourist-guest-house called Sethan Heights. I stayed at Sethan Heights and totally loved my stay.
The family (of ‘Bodh’, as is their surname) who look after Sethan Heights also run an adventure tour company called NorthlandAdventures and thus organise summer and winter sports activities like Skiing and Snowboarding and Trekking.
Update: During my recent visit to Sethan, in November 2017, I found out that Bodhs are no longer operating Sethan Heights and have given the guest house to someone else on the lease. The guest house was not functioning during my visit.
Located in Hamta valley, Sethan village is easily accessible from Manali, throughout the year. Though if you’re coming from Kullu, you’re not required to burn your tyres in the crowd of Manali, and can take a detour from a town called Prini, and follow the road that goes towards Hampta Pass trekking circuit.
The route is fairly visible and well marked (having nearly 40 hair-pin bends) yet if you’re driving by yourself, or are perhaps signing up for a pick and drop service, do not forget to stop over at the Bodh’s residence, in Prini, and experience a real Tibetan hospitality, that always comes with beautiful smiles, some interesting stories, and a lot of butter-tea.
Also Read: Offbeat Destinations Near Manali
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