After a few lazy 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 at a 45-minute drive from Manali, Sethan is a place for slow travellers – particularly during winters, when snow claims its ground and any movement beyond this tiny Buddhist town, becomes impossible!
In the month of March, and with mercury still falling beyond zero for most of the hours in a day, the valley 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 of Sethan are the original migrants from Tibet and Spiti Valley, representing 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.
During winter, most of them move to the lower altitude towns in Kullu Valley, 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 In Sethan
Since Sethan sits at an altitude of over 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 are 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 the 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 is of high religious significance too. Around 2 kilometres from the town lies Pandu Ropa – a place where Pandavas (before the time of Mahabharata) stayed and meditated. They also used a part of the land to grow crops, making it no less auspicious for the believers. 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 In Sethan
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 (and is only available during winter, provided that it heavily snowed). I, however, stayed at The Himalayan Lounge and totally loved my stay.
The family (of ‘Bodh’, as is their surname) who look after The Himalayan Lounge also organise summer and winter sports activities like Skiing and Snowboarding and Trekking.
Update, Almost 2 Years Later, in April 2018: After two plus years of a Nomadic life and travelling much of the Himalayas, when I decided to start my first hospitality venture (a campsite) I chose Sethan for what it all had to offer: the experiences, an away-from-the-world charm, the idea of staying among Buddhists and the unworldy views. I visited Sethan in January 2017 and kept revisiting over the time. Now, in April 2018, I’ve stared a campsite, in partnership with the family of Bodhs, with the best views you can get in Sethan (visit once, and you won’t doubt my words)!
Here’re a few pictures of the campsite Footloose Camps and some views, in all weather:
How To Reach Sethan
Located in Hamta valley, Sethan village is easily accessible from Manali, throughout the year. Get a night bus from Delhi to Manali, and from Manali, readily available taxis can get you to Sethan in around 1500 Rupees per trip, for the taxi. Though if you’re driving, and coming from Kullu, you’re not required to go all the dealing with the traffic in Manali, from the town of Prini, just take the Hampta Pass road.
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.
For an easy navigation, search on Google maps ‘Himalayan Lounge and Footloose Camps’.
And now, a happy family picture of the Bodhs.
Also Read: Offbeat Destinations Near Manali