Raila came accross as some sort of mystery to me. Even when I visited other parts of Sainj a few years ago, this name almost never pooped up during my conversation with the locals.
Only since last year my mind started registering this name, primarily because a homestay or two became somewhat popular in that area and quite a few people visited it. The map showed that it is westward of the main Sainj-Shangarh belt, somewhat towards the Jiwa Nala valley. Still, for a long time I remain unsure about the route to take. So, this was another of my main targets of this summer trip.
After visiting Shanshar, we spent the night at Ropa Tourist Complex. The next day, we emptied the room because we had plans to stay in Upper Neahi. However, we left the heavy bags there with the caretaker to pickup later in the evening (there was news that there will be some shared vehicles going that way in the evening from Ropa).
Anyway, we left after breakfast, found a bus going towards Sainj and got down at “Raila Cut”. Now, this a point a few KMs between Ropa and Sainj. There is a bridge (mentioned as Parbati Bridge 2 on Google maps) here to cross the river and then this diversion climbs higher up an goes towards Raila. If you check Google Maps, this bridge is mentioned as Bridge 2.
We had figured out the way after talking to several locals (details available online are still sketchy… Well not anymore since I am now doing it).
The other doubt in our mind was the bus. it was mentioned online that there was only one bus in the afternoon and nothing in the morning. So, we were looking the hitchiking like the previous day but this day was pretty sunny and hot.
However, we soon realised that online information was obsolete and there was a morning bus too, as I formed to us by a shopkeeper the bridge. So, wee waited there and the bus did arrive after half an hour and the trip resumed.
Raila is a completely different detour, somewhat towards the Valley of Jiwa Nala Valley, which is a tributary of Sainj. As we quickly gained altitude, the view of the lower Sainj Valley and it’s agricultural terraces became visible in their full glory.
We crossed several villages but we’re actually not sure where to get down. We noticed the famous Tower Temple of Ashapuri on the way but could not get down. We decided to keep going till the last stop of the bus, which was apparently Kamtan Village. We started chatting with a few people on the bus and soon we found out that one guy on the bus was the son of the homestay owner in the village.
The bus reached Kamtan, dropped everyone, turned around, and left. Although we had no plans to stay that day, we were invited by the guy we met at the bus to visit the homestay and have tea, which turned out to be a nice traditional house.
We rested there for a while and gathered all the necessary information that we had been lacking so far. It was a very sunny day. So, we refilled out water bottles, thanked them and started walking back towards the Twin Towers. As per teb directions we received, we had to walk back for a few minutes and then take a diversion, which goes somewhat uphill. The internet connection was a bit weak here and so, following the map wasn’t an option.
It was a nice stretch lined with tall cedars and we saw a profusion of iris plants along the way just like I once had in Shoja. Sadly it was a bit too late for the blossoms. This area would be magical during early summers.
We saw a couple of more Homestays along the way and after some confusion, finally found the right path and after one sharp turn, the legendary twin towers of Raila revealed themselves.
We soon reached the towers. We had to climb up a bit to reach them but this point also offers good view of the entire valley. These towers are similar to other towers I have seen before, such as the twin towers of Chehni Kothi. The exact name of the village here is Dhaliara Kothi. We saw very few people here and there was one local lady nearby. Just like Chehni Kothi, these towers are also to be seen but not not to be climbed. Only locals can go in, which I guess they do on special occasions.
After spending some time around the towers, it was time for Bhatkanda, which is another KM beyond this point. We kept walking along the road and found another homestay under construction. With growing tourism, the locals are realising the potential and investing money on such projects.
So, Bhatkanda is supposed to be another village around a open meadow, as the suffix “Kanda” suggests. It took a five minutes climb from the road through a bit of vegetation to reach the meadow.
It is a small but nice open expanse. To be honest, it is not as vast or striking as Shangarh Meadows. However, it was still a delightful sight, especially after a hectic few hours since morning. Sadly, there were no clouds in the sky and roaming around under the blazing sun was not what I was looking forward to. A few tourists were there along with a few cows and goats. To our respite, we also noted a water tape in the middle of the meadow, which is connected to some local stream nearby and so there was abundant supply of cool water for us to drink and refill our bottles (that’s right… Refill your bottles and cut down single use plastic).
We spent half an hour relaxing at the meadow and then it was the time to return? No… it was the time to face the next dilemma. It was around 2 pm and we were done with our objectives for the day. It was lunchtime but we had not seen any restaurants in this area. The second bus arrives after 4 PM and then returns. The bus could leave us at the bridge from where we would have to find another connecting bus to reach Ropa. It was necessary to get there on time because we had vacated the room and planning to catch the vehicles going to Upper Neahi (although we were not sure if they’ll be there at all).
So, instead of waiting, we decided to start walking. However, it was not our best day as hitchhikers. The previous day at Shanshar we got lifts from as many as five different people. This time there were none. Very few vehicles were running and even they didn’t bother about us. We took various shortcuts to cut out distance and covered around 5-6 KMs while crossing various villages enroute.
At one point, we did see our bus coming. It was going to get to Raila and return immediately.
Finally after around 2.5 hrs we gave up walking when we located a shop, which offered tea, and that dreaded instant noodle that tone-deaf instagrammers keep romanticizing. I usually boycott it nowadays but in absence of other options, we had to go for it.
This was also a point from where a narrower and more perilous looking diversion goes up. Apparently this route has more to offer and it somehow connects to Jiwa Nala valley. I’ll have to check this area later.
Anyway, by that time we were exhausted and we chatted with the locals for half an our till the bus returned from Raila. The bus schedule is actually perfect because at the bridge, we also got the Ropa bound bus and eventually found those mythical vehicles going towards that mythical road to Upper Neahi. However, that’s a different story. In fact, I’m not sure of that’s a story at all because I have already written about that area!
Some footages from the trip
Raila Travel Guide
What and where exactly is Raila?
Raila region is somewhat secluded from the main Shangarh -Shanshar route of Sainj Valley. The diversion is at some point between Sainj and Ropa. There are many villages here and primary attractions are it’s tower temples and some open meadows higher up.
How to Reach Raila?
There are two buses to Raila (bus probably comes from Aut or Kullu. I am not sure. But you can catch them right at the road that bifurcates from Sainj Neuli road towards Raila. On Google maps this small bridger is mentioned as Parbati 2 Bridge.
Morning bus reaches the bridge around 9.30-10 am while the evening bus gets there around 3.30-4 pm.
The buses return immediately after dropping the passengers.
Where to Stay in Raila?
Multiple Homestays have come up here of late. But do note that it’s a vast area and not one place. There aare several villages in this area and they are located nearby.
Don’t extremely budget options though. Most of them we saw were reasonably expensive for my standards. If you are extremely low on budget, your bets option will be to stay at the Dorm at Ropa and make a day visit.
Further Reading: Sainj Valley Travel Guide