Far from the madding crowd, Naggar boats of orchards, an ancient temple and splendid forests
Almost everyone has either heard of Manali, visited it or plans to. But, proceed with caution. In summer months the crowds can drive you batty. The throng of visitors in Manali or heading to Rohtang Pass, where the snow is grey with fumes and human litter (and crossing the traffic congested road is a death wish) is perplexing to some of us.
For those who are actually there for nature (and not for restaurants and the excitement of bumping into someone you know), stopping at breathtakingly beautiful Naggar (just before Manali) is a great idea. Naggaris also well known, but for some delightful reason, quite undeveloped. At least till now! It’s a small town, which starts and ends before you know it.
The older locals love narrating the story of Russian ‘spy’ and eccentric painter Roerich who lived in Naggar in the 1940’s. After a lazy breakfast at the German Bakery (or one of the 4 restaurants the town boasts of), you can walk down to his home, which is now an art gallery, and have an artistic morning among his paintings. The Naggar castle is this town’s claim to fame. Stop here on the way in, for the view and the architecture.
However, the IFM recommendation is, undoubtedly, the Krishna temple above Naggar. Even if temples are not your thing, you will be enchanted by it. Drive up the tricky road if you have a jeep, but we recommend walking up. A few minutes ahead of the castle, a beautiful path winds its way through splendid forests and blossoming orchards to the ancient temple grounds. You will find few people (if any), magnificent stone carvings akin to the Khajuraho temple, beautiful open spaces, and stunning views. Circumambulate and soak the serene energy of the place, and relax in the picturesque courtyard. The resident Pujari (Priest) may offer you some tea, which you can sip and reflect on the ancients – what life was then and what it is today.
Once out of your reverie (and since you’ve got this far) why not walk further up to paradisaical places? Where apple orchards meet deodar forests. Music pours out of every flower and tree. And nature reveals herself in a glorious rhapsody. Suddenly every spot seems like the ‘best place ever’ to fling yourself on the velvety grass and daydream under a wind-kissed tree. Sunlight streams through the branches above you. Time stands still. And you forget the world and as Naggar soothes all your worries away.
Tips | Carry a light bag pack with goodies to eat and a sarong to lie on. It is very safe up here and a tad difficult to get lost.
You could visit Naggar anytime between April to October. October, in the mountains, is a crisp and crystal clear time. Little nippy at night, but brilliant in the day.
Flying to Manali is always iffy. So, we say, drive. Take the mountain road; it takes the same time as the Manali highway, without the traffic and better views. (Chandigarh-Dharampur-Arki-Ghaghas-Sundernagar-Mandi-Bhuntar-Naggar). This will take all day, so leave Chandigarh by 7am so you can get there in the afternoon.
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