At a distance of 589 Kilometers from Delhi, Naggar is at a height of 5750 ft from sea level and situated on sleepy hill, near the left bank of Beas river with snowy peaks of Deotiba, Gyenghang and Chandraghani looming in the skies over it. All the interesting sights, fine walks, good food and some excellent guesthouses mean that it’s well worth staying.
I was having lunch with my friend when he asked my plans for upcoming long Christmas weekend, I chuckled saying, “I’ll probably sleep it off.” “Let’s go to Naggar,” he said. “Okay,” I agreed without any hesitation, even though I did not know where it was. We travelled with four friends from Delhi.
We travelled to Manali by an overnight Volvo – by far the best means to travel. The trip itself should have taken us 12 hours to reach Manali – ideally. Unfortunately, however, excessive fog & construction work contributed to a good 4 hours delay. And anyone who has been on a road trip can understand how, the final 30-odd kilometres just stretched on forever! By the time we reached Manali, it was almost sunset.
On arriving, we walked till Mall Road and rented bikes. We chose a destination which assured good roads yet, away from commercialised New Manali. We rode 20 km through narrow winding roads towards Naggar village.
Cruising through the tight corners of the mountains in pitch darkness was obviously not a very prudent move. The ride was bumpy, and carrying heavy backpack almost killed my shoulders. But the mere experience of the cold wind blowing through our hair, riding amid the pine forest made it totally worth it.
At last! We reached Naggar by 10pm, exhausted and famished and headed to the homestay we had booked. We were welcomed by the big tapestry of Bob Marley on our living room’s wall!
The room was really cozy, and had a small fire place where we warmed our self and had some home-cooked pahadi food. The room had congos & a guitar, so we jammed till midnight and slept off at the fireplace too tired and cozy to move anywhere else.
We were up early in excitement to explore the village. The caretaker made us some herbal Marua tea, which was refreshing and perfect for winter morning. It is prepared after drying the Marua leafs and is supposed to be good for blood percolation and liver functioning.
Ram Chander Ji gave us a brief tour of the village, which surprisingly had an art gallery, built by an Englishwoman. Believe me, the sight was an absolute bliss! And to top it off, the gallery’s intriguing structure with wide windows showing the view of snow covered mountains and lush green forest.
After having heavy brunch – some bread omelette, parathas with some pahadi pickles and some more herbal tea, we left for our excursion, with no particular agenda or check points in mind.
We kept riding through mesmerizing sights – beautiful green hills with snow caps on the top! After covering about 14 kilometers downhill, a path cut through lush pine groves, running across scattered rocks, we reached the nearest road point, from where we hiked on path surrounded by deodar trees and apple orchards for half hour to reach the waterfall. It is a charming spot to chill around and click lots of picturesque selfies.
The fall is hidden from plain sight and was a surprise for us as the water unexpectedly rushed from a cluster of rocks overlooking a feeble wooden bridge. We built a fire near the water fall, sat and enjoyed the beauty of the forest amid the hills. Down the road there were small dhabas, which served piping hot local special thali. I strongly recommend Sidu – a par cooked bread with vegetable and chicken stuffing, Chha Gosht – a dish preprared by marinating mutton cooked in yogurt, gram flour and fragrant Indian spice, served with steamed rice which fit perfectly with the chill local weather.
We came across a famous museum called Naggar castle. The place looked intriguing, built in the 15th Century, it had a unique blend of Western and Himalayan style. In 1970’s a part of it got converted into a heritage hotel, so now it serves both as a crest house and a tourist attraction. I loved how an art gallery has been preserved, displaying several paintings made by an Russian artist Nicholas Roerich.
Near the museum, we found a small restaurant with a balcony attached to it. We sat outside in the breezy winter night and had a cup of coffee. As we exited the gates of Naggar castle wondering where to go next, a board caught my eye, ‘Homemade Bakery & Coffee Shop’. Really? Well I had nothing loose. We entered a tiny, very easy to miss shop – Naggar Delight Cafe. At the counter stood a very interactive man proud of this mini treasure he owned. Though we just ordered coffee at first but he caught my eye roving on displayed freshly baked cakes and croissants; brownies and the cheesecake. Well it is bit easy to tempt travellers with pretty looking food, especially someone like me who is perpetually waiting to gobble anything at sight. He suggested the cheesecake – and true to his word – it was one of the best cheesecake we ever had, so much so that we ended up ordering double of everything!
After spending about an hour there we left the tiny bakery, and I had just one thought that I would like to revisit the place in my own time – with a book to read and relax.
We reached the guesthouse where Ram uncle had set up a fire and some music for the night. We freshened up, got ourselves settled around the fire and were ready to spend our Christmas Eve.
We had lazy morning the next day, we repeated the morning drill, had breakfast after which I somewhat decided to stay back in the mini art gallery in one of the cottages; I spent rest of the day reading and had a few chats with Ram Chandra uncle; until it was time to head back to Manali to return our bikes and catch our bus; sharing Whatsapp details with a promise of revisiting him soon.