Months Visited: July and August
We are a couple with two teenage boys: ages 15 and 16½ . We really like to travel and discover new places and cultures. We decided we wanted to feel the real India and experience all of the beautiful places and local culture. We chose to go to the northern part of India because our trip was during a hot summer in South India and we wanted to avoid excessive temperatures. We are very adventurous, and can handle completely off the beaten path, and extreme local conditions. We stayed at very cheap guest houses which usually ran between two dollars and ten dollars per night. So to be clear, the accommodations were very, very, very basic. Some of the places we stayed had no indoor toilets, and no showers. In some places we had to shower using buckets, and there was no warm water. If you can handle real “roughing it” this is an amazing trip.
Special tips and warning about this trip: Before the trip we all received all of the recommended vaccinations and discussed what to eat and what we should not consume on the trip with our family doctor. This really helped us get through the trip in good health, and we experienced almost no abdominal pain during our travels in India. It is very important to consult a doctor about the needed vaccines, and about eating and drinking in foreign places. Drink only mineral water that you can see is closed and sealed, in order to prevent any local diseases caused by water or food contamination. If you plan on following this itinerary it is important to consult with your doctor before the trip to discuss vaccinations, hygiene and food, and any additional risks when traveling to this country. In general driving in India is not very simple, though we rented a car. During our 5 week trip we also took taxis, a jeep with a driver, and trains.
Stop 1: Village of Old Manali
Description: Manali is a village of about 30,000 people, and the size of the population makes it more of a city than a village. The city is situated in the Himachal Pradesh mountains, and it offers exquisite scenery and a very friendly population. Today many tourists are attracted to the area and there are numerous amenities available.
Our Experience: Manali is a picturesque village and very beautiful. We went straight to Old Manali when we arrived. In the center of the village there is a street lined with stalls selling clothes and other items, and it was a very interesting place to walk around and explore. Along the street you can see loose cows and rickshaws carrying passengers being pulled by people. From the main street there are many side streets, and this was quite a fascinating hike. We got a chance to see how life is different from what we are used to in the Western culture. We also saw how people and cows live together, and women carrying food for the cows.
It is possible to get a glimpse of many shops, laundries, villagers, and many other sights and structures in the middle of the village. At the edges of the village you will experience spectacular views. The main street of Manali has an information center where you can find a variety of things to see and do in the area. We were here about for about a week, and we really enjoyed getting lost in the village. We also liked exploring the area and talking to vendors and villagers. We marveled at the scenery around the village, and we chose to go to the waterfalls near the village by rickshaw ride. We rappelled down beautiful waterfalls and we took a European guide that we felt more comfortable. In retrospect, though we loved it and are very adventurous, we do not know whether it is safe enough to recommend this activity.
Address: Kullu District, Himachal Pradesh, India
Phone: no phone (There is no electricity)
Description: Parvati Valley is a valley in India that is incredibly lush, with beautiful vistas and scenic views. Many hiking treks can be found in the valley and surrounding area, and these trails and treks range from easy enough for newbies up to extremely difficult even for the experienced. The road that runs through Parvati Valley goes to a number of different villages in the region, some of which are very small. This valley is known for breathtaking natural beauty that stuns and awes visitors to the region.
Our Experience: We decided to go to Parvati Valley after leaving Manali so we rented a jeep with a driver to travel there. The trip went well and the route that the driver took has breathtaking views . The jeep drivers can seem reckless at times, and ours caused our hearts to occasionally skip a beat during the ride . We arrived in Parvati Valley towards the evening and we stopped at Cassoulet, a location that is central to the Valley. We rented a lodge that was quiet and clean, and then we spent time exploring the village and getting to know the local population. The next morning we took a bus up the road until the road stopped, and then we carried all our bags on our back until we reached a remote village called Bara Bhangal. This is a remote village and there is no road to it. This is a very picturesque village and it is magical. The accommodations are simple but there is a very special atmosphere there.
Our base village was in the Parvati Valley and we used it in order to make stops pit stops at some of the other villages in the region. We made a side trip to a place called Khir Ganga for two days, and the route that we traveled took us several hours. The trip was a little challenging but worth it once you reach this magical place. There are many very scenic views, and there are hot springs that are very fun and inviting despite the cold because of the warm water.The whole family greatly enjoyed the view and the experience. It is very important to take a guide with you in order to avoid getting lost though, because there are many paths and the area can be extremely confusing to anyone who is not familiar with the region.
Stop 3: Dharamsala
Address: Kanga District, Himachal Pradesh, India
Description: Dharamsala is the district headquarters for the Kanga district, and this city is easily accessible by plane, train, or other vehicle. The scenery outside of the city is gorgeous, but the actual city consists of many structures and may see a little crowded at times. The Monsoon season does affect the area and the varying climate helps to promote an extensive range of plant and animal life in the area. The mountains, the friendly population, and the local customs all appeal to travelers, and those who want to explore the wonders of the world.
Our Experience: Our visit to Dharamsala was memorable, and the Indian culture and local people makes spending even several weeks here ideal for some travelers. There are various courses and services available here in the Indian arts and practices, and there is a vast range of things to see, do, and experience. Yoga, massage, Reiki, intuitive painting, instruction in various instruments, jewelry making, Indian cooking, and much more can be found here.We spent a week here, and our children enjoyed the stay as much as the adults did. We met people who stayed there for many weeks and just merged with the villagers, but we continued on after our week was up.
Address: Amritsar District, Punjab Pradesh, India
Description: Amritsar is the Sikh religion spiritual center, and this city has a high degree of relevance for any follower of this religion. It is also the administrative headquarters for the district of the same name. The Golden Temple is located in Amritsar, and more than 100,000 people visit this sacred place each weekday. The Sikh Parliament and the Akal Takht are also in this city. Tourism plays a big role in the Amritsar economy, and more than one million people call the city home.
Our Experience: We traveled to Amritsar and around the city by renting a jeep with a driver. The trip to the city was long but it was definitely worth it. We enjoyed going to many of the places in the city, including the Golden Temple. There are some crowds but the local culture and the wide variety of places and activities make this a very highly recommended stop. We experienced a ritual tradition at the border between India and Afghanistan while we were in the area. The ceremony happens during the shift change for the guards and it is very unusual. The Indians dance as if it was a holiday and run with their flag, going towards the white tourists in order to honor them. The ceremony is accompanied by the guards marching about, and it was impressive and funny to experience. Highly recommended!
Address: Teja Singh Samundri Hall, Golden Temple Complex, Sri Amritsar
Hours: Varies depending on the day and month
Description: The Golden Temple, called Sri Harimandir Sahib Amritsar in the Indian language, attracts millions of people from all around the world every year. It is considered the center of spirituality and one of the most holy places in the Sikh religion. Everyone is welcome to visit and use the Golden Temple, no matter what their cast, race, or religion is, and during important Sikh celebrations and holidays the crowds can be enormous. The structure of the temple is unique and stunning, and there are four entrances which correlate to the four directions.
Our Experience: This Sikh temple is very impressive. We were there at night and is really beautiful. You can see all of the splendor of the temple, and this is situated close by soup kitchens that feed tens of thousands of people on a daily basis.
Hours: Check the website for current information
Description: The trip between Amritsar and Haridwar covers some of the most incredible scenery found in India, and a train ride allows travelers to sit back and relax during the trip. Haridwar is a sacred place to the Hindu religion, and it is one of the top holy locations in the country for Hindu followers. Many people from India and other places around the world travel to Haridwar each year, and the city is the largest in the district.
Our Experience: When we left Amritsar we went by train to Haridwar, and the train ride was an exciting and enjoyable experience. The trip is long enough that sleep is possible, and we chose to do this so that our entire family was rested and refreshed when we arrived. Do not settle for less than first class with children though or you could regret it. Only first class train accommodations offer the comfort and amenities that will keep kids happy and allow sleep.
*This review is the subjective opinion of someone who submitted this itinerary and not the owner of Real Family Trips.