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Never in my 5 years of architecture graduation we studied about making an Igloo and never in my life I imagined staying in one. Hang on to read my experience of living in the most coveted Igloo in Sethan, Manali.
As I was going through Instagram for some travel inspiration, a page on Igloo Stay popped before me and the next moment I knew where I was headed to.
A travel company called HIGH MOUNTAINS has started this amazing stay option in a place called Sethan which is at a height of 10,000 ft., above than the main Manali that the tourist usually go to.
A 45-minute drive full of adventure in a 4 by 4, takes you to snow-filled land where white globules of snow in which you can actually spend the night in, wait for you against the beautiful landscape of Manali.
How To Reach Manali
- By air: Nearest airport is in Bhuntar, which is 48km from Manali. Take a bus from the bus stand which is 11km away from the airport.
- By train: Jogindernagar railway station (162km from Manali) | Chandigarh railway station (350km from Manali) | Ambala railway station (360km from Manali)
- By road: There are various govt. and private buses (both normal and Volvo) that operate between Manali and main cities such as Delhi, Chandigarh, Shimla, Kalka and Dharamshala
In my whole life, I never imagined being spending a day around 5 feet of snow and the night inside a 6 feet tall Igloo.
After reaching Manali on 2nd February, we had to spend one day warming up by spending time in an around the Mall road area. This day we stayed in the hotel MOUNTAIN TRAIL MANALI which was quite promising in terms of facilities and hospitality. And not to forget the views.
February 2019 was a great time of the year to spot some fresh snowfall and see Manali under sheets of ice.
Did I ever tell you that I am a balcony-view-chaser kind of a person?
Book yourself the same at (+91) 9816003738
Keep supplying me cups of hot chocolate and coffee while I stand here and soak my morning sun in.
The city which is usually overflowing with cars and hotels could be seen under layers of fresh snow. It was difficult to walk in normal shoes since the water that flowed on roads was freezing hence increasing the chances to slip.
If in Manali, make sure to visit the local Buddhist monasteries and also this beautiful Sayali Mahadev Temple apart from the Hadimba temple.
Ended our leisure walk on a calming note by spending the last hours of daylight by the Beas riverbank.
While the next day was dedicated to being spent around Sethan Valley, we got the news that the roads were still full of snow and won’t be cleared until the following morning. But the adventurous soul inside Aman, of HIGH MOUNTAINS, was screaming aloud and he decided to take us on a reiki tour still.
The only thing I knew before seeing this white view was that we were going to Panduropa village side which is 15km from Manali. Our journey was full of sharp twists and turns on frozen roads while 6 of us were bumping into each other on the backseat.
Our car got stuck in a few complex spots but HIGH MOUNTAINS team was fully equipped with all the tools and techniques to tackle such situations. Meanwhile, every time the car got stuck, it gave us a chance to play with fresh snow.
Please note:- Usually I prefer taking public transportation, but there are no buses or commonly available taxis to this route. This land is owned by AD Hydropower and thus not everyone is permitted to allow with their own cars. You can rent a taxi from companies like HIGH MOUNTAINS which would cost you INR 3000.
This was the exact same spot where we had to stop our car and cover the rest of the way on foot. The JCB was still an awaited sight so that the roads could be made motorable.
Setting foot, thank God covered in gumboots, in 2 feet snow was something new to me. I wasn’t used to the snow life at all.But seeing these snow-covered structures somewhere in the distant, revived the familiar mountain feeling. I was ready to jump, roll, fall, slip in the moist glittery cotton. I never wanted to take the car back. The white was blinding but I found enough shade somehow.
Please note: – This point onwards network signals drop from low to nil and you start entering into an offline world. There is one shop of Tenzin Bhai to purchase snacks near this point. Other meals you would get prepared by the Igloo team.
Who knew that on top of Dhauladar mountains there is an abandoned haunted yellow truck which automatically turns on its lights after sunset, as told to us by Aman.
The reason that the roads were blocked was majorly due to this small avalanche that happened the last day. For me, in two days, this was quite an adventure dose for the whole month.
We were finally standing near these Igloos and I was highly impressed by the quality of construction apart from the basic facilities provided in such an extreme landscape.
There was a proper snow restaurant where you could enjoy meals. The portable toilets were also located just by the side with buckets full of water.
Best time to visit
December to March (when there is enough snow to construct and maintain the igloos)
After having a freezing gala time in the snow we started walking back to our car to head back to our Manali hotel.
The next day in the late morning we again left in our car to reach Sethan which now had cleaner roads because they were cleared of the snow that occupied the main driving area.
The evening was spent playing ludo, having 3 cups of chai one after the other, stopping in between and sipping to narrate travel stories which were often interrupted by an eerie silence of an unoccupied mountain under the shadow of deodars and an overcast sky.
The barbeque was definitely the highlight of the day where our feet and the tandoor were on snow but the warmth of it and the people around made the night a memorable one.
Four of us girls occupied one Igloo. Oh no! we absolutely didn’t sleep on the ice and wet ourselves. 5 layers of liners were specially kept to prepare a firm waterproof base, over which sleeping bags with another layer of an inner liner was kept. But don’t forget to wear 4 to 5 layers of clothes yourself before you enter this area.
Midnight, the outside temperature dropped to about minus 14 degrees whereas it was only minus 3 inside the igloos. Because after all, that’s how an igloo is supposed to keep you warm by the principle of compressed snow construction.
IGLOO STAY PACKAGES
One can opt to stay for 1 to 2 nights or choose the day tour only. Each package includes transportation, meals, gum boots, BBQ, tea and snacks, Sethan tour, snowboarding, tire slides etc.
Contact here to book one for yourself and enquire rates:- 91 9888823721
Next morning was one of the few magical experiences of my life. We drove up to the main dam area where the snow was not only below us, besides us, on the mountain surface, but also absolutely in front of us. The glacial snow came down last night and blocked the way further.
It wasn’t convenient but definitely a sight worth gasping for.
Some of us tried snowboarding there, the slope was little but quite slippery for the fun of it.
Heavy grey clouds were getting together above us and heavy snowfall was predicted for the next few days, a phenomenon which I am yet to live. The fear of getting stuck for the day made the whole team decide to leave as early as possible. The urgency of things made us lose our car key, something that made me the happiest.
Left with the option to walk and reach the igloo point, filled me with some thrill and satisfaction.I was hopeful of catching a little glimpse of snow which happened for a few minutes and thus completed this Manali trip for me.
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A goodbye to these peeps was as hard as walking in snow without gum boots.