At less than 10 km from village Kugti, began what’s otherwise known as the ‘second-largest sanctuary in the state of Himachal Pradesh’.
Kugti Sanctuary, I didn’t know — before I got there and a part of me made me Google about the place — is one of the last homes for the Himalayan tahr.
It, also, is territory for Snow Leopard.
And so began my day-trip from Bharmour to Kugti!
Kugti — The Last Village In Chamba
To give you an idea, from Kugti, Keylong, in Lahaul Valley, is less than 50km (speaking of the aerial distance). If we build a tunnel tomorrow, it will be less than one and a half-hour drive away.
Right now, it’s a 2-day journey that takes you through a needless 350km drive.
Think of Kugti as the gateway for Chamba to Lahaul-Spiti, tomorrow.
“In summer months you will find a lot of Gaddis (local shepherds) making their way to Lahaul, from Kugti sanctuary. They start from the lower altitude villages near Chamba and finish their journey in Lahaul. Takes them nearly six months to do a return trip,” I was told.
“There is no phone reception in the village. In winter, there’s no electricity either,” the person added.
I would recommend Kugti to those who enjoy visiting remote Himalayan villages. A one day trip, no matter in what season, is enough to explore the surrounding and understand the hardships of the day-to-day life in the higher Himalayas.
Most families in Kugti are self-sufficient, and it is not hard to guess how, or Why! From keeping livestock to growing their own food, life in Kugti feels harmonious to nature. Mules are, to the date, still used to carry essentials.
My Trip To Kugti Village
My trip to Kugti happened during a one-week trip with Explore The Unexplored. Read about my 1-day Dalhousie itinerary (exploring Dalhousie, Khajjiar & more) with them. That was day 1. Day 2 included visiting a local village & the Anan temple/waterfall. Kugti was on day 5 of the trip.
I, along with Anil (the local point of contact for a trip with Explore The Unexplored) started in our Alto 800 at 7 in the morning. It felt just as quiet as a Monday morning for a trip to Bharmour to Kugti journey should feel like.
Also Read: Other Places to Visit In & Near Bharmour
The journey from Bharmour to Kugti was less than 25 km but it took us about 2 hours. There were no places to eat on the way, but enough viewpoints to stop and take a picture.
About half an hour from Bharmour was the town of Hadsar — the starting point for the pilgrims doing Manimahesh Yatra.
A few km after crossing Hadsar started Kugti Sanctuary and that’s when I got the first closer view of the snowcapped Himalayas at a distance. Beyond this point, there was no phone network.
The Bharmour-Kugti road is currently under construction with some patches still being made. Though rest assured, it’s motorable for something as small as an ALTO to something as big as an HRTC bus.
As I said above, we were driving an ALTO 800 and the ground clearance was no problem for us. In the month of November, in 2020, we parked our car right before the village. From the parking spot, Kugti was less than 300m away. The road was currently under construction and will soon go 2km beyond Kugti village.
What To Do In Kugti
Kugti is a place meant for slow travellers. Just walk around the many alleyways and explore the life around. It should be okay to trespass into any private property and speak to locals.
Other than that, there is a lot of beauty to appreciate around. During winter month, you will find Kugti buried under as much as 5 feet snow. During the summer months, the place is, on the contrary, greener.
Here’s a photo comparing summer and winter in Kugti.
Kartik Swami temple can be another reason for someone to be visiting Kugti. Located on the way to Kugti Pass, the temple is the vantage point to see beautiful snow-covered mountains and green spaces around. It is a 7 km trek to the temple (from Kugti village).
The temple is locally known as Kelang Wazir, other than Kartik Swami, and it’s worth knowing the history of the temple once you are there. The temple is revered by both Gaddis as well as the people from across Himachal Pradesh.
Please note that the temple is opened only during summer and autumn months. Heavy snow makes it too impossible to access the place in winter. Even in the month of November, when I visited Kugti, there was enough snow to cut off any human movement from.
If you are religious, there are more reasons for you to visit the temple. The temple complex has two temples, one of Kartik and other of Marali.
But on a day-trip from Bharmour to Kugti, it isn’t possible to visit Kartik Swami Temple. So we will stick to that spectrum only and speak about WHY VISIT KUGTI?
- To explore local life: eat local food, enjoy local
- To enjoy the luxury of being the only tourist in the village (even if you stay overnight).
- To experience the unparalleled beauty of such unexplored parts of Chamba. Not exaggerating, but Kugti happens to be one of my favorite places to travel in Himachal Pradesh.
A Few Photographs of Life Around
Every house in Kugti has a small temple stuck its wall with sculptures of Krishna and Shiva inside.
A few locals exiting their house.
A 100% of the houses in Kugti resemble Khat Kuni architecture – a traditional technique that uses alternating layers of long thick wooden logs and stone masonry, held in place usually without using mortar.
This Khat Kuni style of architecture helps to keep the indoors cool in summer and warm in winter.
On the streets of Kugti – a man clicking the photo of a child.
The cluster of houses. When asked why houses are stuck so close to each other I was told: “because it helps in surviving the harsh winter.”
A group of kids playing.
Keeping livestock is crucial for people in Kugti. 90% of the families own Goats, horses/mules and cows (that look something in between a cow and a Yak).
A handloom machine that is certainly not rare to find across Himachal Pradesh. The only difference remains the way they function.
Where To Stay In Kugti
When I visited Kugti in November 2020 there were no homestays or guesthouses in Kugti. However, I saw a few under construction. I will share more details once they’re ready.
For now, make Bharmour your base and do a day-trip to Kugti. Since it’s only a 2-hour journey, if you leave early, you will have enough time to explore the village. You can contact Anil (in Bharmour: 8219477502) or contact Explore The Unexplored and book your trip all the way from Dalhousie or Bakloh (9882121616. You can also find them on Instagram with the username ‘ETU.ADVENTURES’).