Nahan and Haripurdhar: A confusing week through Sirmaur

The Sirmaur or Sirmour district was formed based on the medieval princely state of Sirmur. It is also called Nahan State after the capital of Nahan, which is one of the bigger towns in Himachal.  Sirmour was practically the last remaining district to be visited for me in Himachal (excluding the lower districts such as Una and Hamirpur because they are a bit too close to the plains to excite me). I have spent a significant amount of time in all other hill districts of the state, as is evident from the drop down menu of this website. So, for a long time, I was planning on something in this district, even when I was not very sure about what to be done here. It is a rare untouristy place in Himachal. Not too many visits this area and there are only a couple of things that are known to us. I can’t say that I did justice to the district but I managed to pass through almost all major points of the district over the course of a few days between end March and early April.

I had passed through Paonta Sahib and  Nahan on earlier occasions while entering Himachal from Uttarakhand but could never explore the places. This time also I arrived in Nahan from Dehradun without any clear plans. For the uninitiated, the Dehradun-Paonta Sahib-Nahan route is a very easy and direct route to enter Himachal from Uttarakhand, if you are looking to do it without returning to the burning plains of UP. From Nahan, you can move onto Chandigarh towards the plains and Shimla in the hills via Solan.

Renukaji

So, one fine day I reached Nahan from Dehradun. At Nahan, the first major problem I had was that of accommodation. This area is completely non-touristy i.e. the usual delights such as affordable homestays and exotic restaurants that can be taken for granted in some other parts of Himachal were completely absent here. The places near the bus stand were pretty expensive. So, after a while, I impulsively decided to move on to Renukaji and visit the Renuka Lake as it was only 1 pm and there was enough time left in the day. I had no idea about the place but expected it to have cheap hotels as a smaller town but I was to be proven wrong soon.

Renukaji is named after Renuka, the mother of Parashuram, the sixth Avatar of Vishnu. The Renuka Lake itself is the largest lake in Himachal and it plays host to a major fair every year. There are shrines on the bank and boating faiclities on the lake too. This region is located at a comparatively lower altitude, on the banks of Giri River. Even in April, I found it to be pretty hot and humid. I even noticed a mango orchard from the bus, something that is more prevalent in the great Indian plains.

Giri River near Renukaji

Renukaji is around 40 KMs from Nahan and I reached quickly but it started going downhill after that. The bus actually stops at a place called Dadahu, a couple of kilometres away from the Renuka Lake. It is a small but congested marketplace that was not very enticing. There were a few hotels in the market and initially I was thinking I can just get a cheap room for a night and visit Renuka. However, all of them seemed to be charging more than INR 1000, which was way more than I usually play in this state. I was tired and I was roaming around with all my luggage. So, after a while, I decided to give up on the lake and come back to Nahan by catching another bus. I did not even feel like clicking a picture s of the lake.

How to Reach Renuka Lake?

There are regular buses from Nahan (40 Kms) during the day. They leave a a couple of KMs away from the lake at a place called Dadahu. From there you need to walk or find locla transport.

Where to Stay at Renukaji?

There are many hotels around the bus stand. A big HPTDC hotel is located nearer to the lake. However, all of them seemed to cost more than INR 1000 and I sturggled to find budget hotels in the town.

Nahan

I was back again at Nahan by 5 PM. I left the bus stand took a long walk through a narrow lane and arrived at the chowgan, the central playground around which the entire town has been developed. It immediately reminded me of the Chaugan in Chamba. The similarities are not surprising although both are situated on two different sides of the state because both were the capitals of princely states.

My struggles were still on, as I was not seeing any budget hotels. Finally, I saw a small signboard promising cheap rooms with an arrow. I followed the arrow to find some more signboards and finally after almost an hour of roaming around,, I found the budget hotel at INR 400 not far from the Chaugan and decided to spend the next day exploring Nahan.

Nahan itself is not seen as a tourist destination but I liked the overall feel of the town. I think the capitals of princely states were planned in a better manner during the early 20th century when the kings aspired to make their capitals look like their western counterparts. That is why, Nahan has a nice central playground, well-paved roads, a clocktower, and an overall disciplined feel that is not easy to find in India.

Nahan Gurudwara and Clocktower
Clocktower, Delhi Gate, Nahan
Nahan Chaugan and Gurudwara

The most important monuments in Nahan is the Fort. However, as far as I could figure out, it is still a private property of the royal family and not open to tourists. So, I clicked one picture of the door and moved on. There are other temples, ponds, gurudwaras and monuments around Nahan. The Rani Tal and the Pakka Tank are worth mentioning among them.

Nahan Fort
Nahan Fort Walls

 

Nahan Pucca Tank & Temple

There are more attractions in the vicinity of Nahan such as Trilokpur (ancient temple), Suketi Fossil Park (where prehistoric fossils were excavated), Jaitak Fort (Fort built by Gurkhas after sacking Nahan) that I could not visit. I will return someday if the district starts building affordable homestays.

How to Reach Nahan?

Nahan is a big town well connected with major towns like Dehradun, Chandigarh, Solan, and Shimla. Buses are available throughout the day and reaching Nahan should be the least of your concerns.

Where to Stay at Nahan?

Nahan has many hotels. I also noticed a PWD resthouse and some other options. The more visible hotels tend to be expensive but if you look around for a while, you will find teh cheaper ones hidden behind them too.

Haripurdhar

Haripurdhar or Haripur Dhar is one of the highest towns in Sirmaur district at close to 2700 metres. It was developed by the Sirmauri Kings as a frontier citadel to watch over the activities of the neighbouring rivals of the Jubbal State. It is around 106 KMs from Nahan but is also directly connected to Solan, which is around 100 KMs away. It is a small town that is primarily known for the temple of Maa Bhangayani, one of the most revered deities of I armour.

Now, I did not directly go to Haripurdhar from Nahan. I was not particularly excited about the rest of the district after the disappointment at Renukaji. I planned to leave the area and move towards more mainstream areas of Kinnaur for more predictable delights. But I got a call as I reached Solan. I had to go back to Dehradun for an important meeting after a couple of days. So, I had to return instead of going further but had a couple of days in hand in between. Solan was another big, non-touristy town that did not interest me. I had been to Kasauli before and it was also not enticing enough to force a repeat. I saw a bus to Haripur Dhar and decided to move towards that place.

It turned out to be a very slow and long ride, mostly through narrow roads. Few traverse these roads except the locals. I was not very sure about my prospects as I left Solan but the views started getting between as the bus started gaining altitude after an hour or so.  Landscapes were still somewhat on the drier side in April, although some colourful terraces were visible. I think they were going to look better in the summers.

The bus crossed Rajgarh, reached Nohradhar and stopped for food. It is one of the better-known places in Sirmaur, not because it is a big town but because it is the starting point for Churdhar Trek. Churdhar is the highest peak in the outer Himalayas and this is one of the best-known attractions in the entire district. The food here was cheap and I noticed several basic hotels around that. Although I did not ask, I think it is one of the places where you get cheap accommodation. I was not in the right shape for a trek at that point of time, so I got back into the bus after lunch and moved on.

Approaching Haripur Dhar

It took two hours more to get a glimpse of Haripurdhar. As it is located at an elevation of, it gets visible from a distance. I saw a lot of rhododendrons too, which gladdened my heart although it was getting dark and I could not get many photographs. When the bus finally reached the town, I had been on the bus for almost 7 hours and it was a tiresome day. However, it was not over yet. It was Renukaji all over again as there were only a couple of hotels and the costs were above 1000. Finally, I managed to get a sub-par room in one of the hotels for INR 800, which is one of the maximum amounts I have ever paid in any place after I started backpacking. Later on, I realized that there was a PWD resthouse and some more options near the Maa Bhangayani Temple but it was too late that day for such experiments.

Haripurdhar from Bhagayani Road

The next day I had to reach Dehradun by the end of the day. The Nahan bound bus was going to start at around 9 AM. So, I decided to make a quick visit to the Maa Bhangayani Temple at around 7 AM. Th example if around 2 KMs ahead of the town. Some buses also go up to the temple compund but I decided to walk briskly. I noticed more rhododendrons here but in the morning they were still covered by the shadow of the mountains. I  walked briskly to reach the temple in quick time. Being a major pilgrim centre for the locals, the temples are well-maintained. As it is the case with all such temples, the building seemed to have been built recently although the site must be ancient.

Maa Bhangayani Temple
Maa Bhangayani Temple, Haripurdhar, SIrmaur
Scenes from Mahabharata at Maa Bhangayani Temple

 

View from Maa Bhangayani Temple

The temple is located at a strategic point and the location offers a 360-degree view of the valleys. On some clear days, one can get the views of snowy peaks on the horizon (as per some photographs available online) but it was not that kind of a day and there were no peaks for me on the horizon. I spent some time at the temple and then started walking back briskly. I had no more expectations for the day but one pleasant surprise was remaining to make up for all other disappointments. By that time, the sun had come out fully and the rhododendrons were now fully visible, with the town in the background.

Rhododendron in April near Haripur Dhar
Another view from Haripur Dhar

The Nahan bus was on time and I was going to pass through Renukaji again to reach Nahan, thus completing around along the Nahan-Solan-Nohradhar-Haripurdhar-Renukaji-Nahan route. Not sure if I should even count it as an achievement. Anyway, I got more views of the terraces and rivers as I passed through places like Sangrah Village. Eventually got into another bust at Nahan and reached Dehradun but not before I got some more decent clicks from the bus window.

Terrace field near Sangrah Village
Terrace cultivations of Sirmaur with the view of Giri River
Another view from Sangrah Village

How to Reach Haripur Dhar?

Haripur Dhar has direct buses from Nahan (via Renuka) and from Solan (via Nohradhar). It is slightly more than 100 KMs on both sides and takes 6-7 hours.

Where to Stay at Haripur Dhar?

Haripur Dhar has a PWD resthouse and a couple of hotels in town. Later on, I noticed another hotel near the Maa Bhanagyani Temple. Hotels here tend to be expensive. I’d suggest you ask the PWD first.

Where does the Churdhar Trek begin?

The Churdhar trek starts at Nohradhar, which is around 60 Kms from SOlan on the Haripur Dhar road. There are other routes too but this is the easiest to reach.

 

Jitaditya Narzary

Is a traveller disillusioned by the familiar and fascinated with the unknown... and of course the founder of this blog.

10 thoughts on “Nahan and Haripurdhar: A confusing week through Sirmaur

  • 2018/05/21 at 3:06 am
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    Very detailed post, Jitaditya, though it was disappointing that you could not find a reasonable stay option at Renukaji. When I was travelling in that area, I reached Renukaji quite late in the evening and it had started to rain, so I randomly picked up a hotel and since it was dark I had no idea which part of the town I was in. It rained all night and when dawn finally broke, it was magical to come face to face with a rain-drenched mountainside and the river Giri flowing bang opposite the hotel. The hotel’s name – Giri View.

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  • 2018/05/26 at 6:39 pm
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    The art on the walls of the Maa Bhangayani Temple is stunning! Isn’t it incredible how when the sun comes out suddenly everything looks so much better and brighter after the rain? It makes such a difference to the entire experience.

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  • 2018/05/28 at 6:06 pm
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    Fantastic photos! I’ve traveled only a little in Himachal but it seems like there is a whole lot more to explore in what feels like one of the most beautiful landscapes in India. That view over the terrace cultivations of Sirmaur is beautiful and reminds me of Sapa in Vietnam.

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  • 2018/05/28 at 6:59 pm
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    Non touristy areas are very beautiful but you always have such problems with accomodation! I’m sorry you had such problems in the Renuka area, and thank you for being so honest about it!

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  • 2018/05/28 at 7:45 pm
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    Maa Bhangayani Temple looks so beautiful! I’d love to see that art work in person. It provides such a great view from the top too.

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  • 2018/05/29 at 6:28 am
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    It’s too bad you had such trouble finding budget accommodation. That’s one of the downsides of traveling to places that aren’t so touristy. But on the plus side, Nahan looked really nice. I especially loved the clock tower.

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  • 2018/05/29 at 4:32 pm
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    Looks like Himachal is a great place to keep you coming back to visit the various hill districts, including this latest of Sirmaur. Love that it’s not at all touristy, and the views are almost yours alone a lot of the time! On the downside, not so easy to find accommodation to fit one’s criteria!

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  • 2018/05/29 at 8:45 pm
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    Rhododendrons are so beautiful aren’t they? Glad they brightened your trip! It’s a shame you had trouble finding cheap accommodation – sometimes its hard being spontaneous! I love the paintings on the Maa Bhangayani Temple.

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  • 2018/05/30 at 8:39 am
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    These are some real and unknown gems that you have unearthed. Nahan seems to be a really charming place. I am enamoured of it by looking at the pictures. It seems to have an old world charm which is rare to find in our country, except for some of the erstwhile princely cities. Renuka is another place that intrigued me. I never knew that there was a lake named after Parshuram’s mother.

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  • 2018/05/31 at 6:12 am
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    Such pristine and unexplored places these are. Nahan for me was the most interesting with its fort and temple. Did not know about the name Renukaji being the mother of Parshuram. I thot it would be the name of a Queen there. The Giri river seems to be a great place to just sit around

    Reply

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