Hardly anyone was going to Sainj Valley until recently. Even as late as 2017, one homestay owner in Tirthan nonchalantly told me that there is nothing in Sainj (Of course, I had better information to not trust him). Anyway, things seems to have changed over the the last couple of years. Even my post on Shangarh Meadows elicits a lot of queries nowadays.
To be honest, even I have a lot to explore in this valley and that is why I had avoided writing a post like this although I had the information. However, I recently noticed that some other sites are writing Sainj Valley Guides, that too by using my photographs in an unauthorised manner. So, I think I should write this post anyway. Do note that, this area is still unexplored and more gems will be unearthed in the days to come (and so I will keep updating it).
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Sainj Valley Travel Guide
Understanding Sainj Valley
Sainj Valley is one of the two major valleys along with the Tirthan Valley, that constitute the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP), which has now been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tirthan is more touristy as of now but Sainj is growing too. The interiors of this gradually ascending valley are covered with deep forest of the national park. However, the lower portions, the “Eco Zone”, are dotted with many villages, some of which are on their way to becoming tourist hotspots. There are many small treks and trails, and longer, multi-day, treks into the interiors are also possible, with the help of local guides.
How to reach Sainj Valley?
The best place to get a bus for Sainj Valley is Aut. This is the place you get on the Delhi-Chandigarh-Mandi-Kullu-Manali route, just before Bhunter. If you have taken that route, you will rememeber the tunnel you cross after Mandi. That is the Aut Tunnel. After that you will find the Aut town and bus stand, from where all the buses to Sainj and Tirthan Valley leave, along with Banjar, Jibhi, and Jalori Pass. The buses keep going regularly throughout the day. So, you can take any bus going towards Kullu or Manali but get down at Aut and look for a local bus. But how to know which bus to take? Primarily the buses will be going to two places, Sainj & Neuli.
Bus to Sainj
This is a small village with the same name as the valley. Most buses will go up to Sainj. This spot itself may not look too inviting and a main attractions are further inside the valley.
Bus to Neuli
Some buses go further up to Neuli, another 10 KM or so beyond Sainj. Ideally you should look for a Neuli bus because most attractions here are near this region.
The road to Shangarh is a detour from Sainj-Neuli road. It is around 10 KM motorable road but there are no regular buses as far as I know. However, you can request help from local vehicles.
Sainj Valley Distance Chart
Aut to Sainj 14 KMs Aut Neuli (via Sainj) 27 KMs Aut to Shangarh 35 KMs
Neuli to Shangarh 12 KMs
Neuli to Upper Neahi 3 KMs
Where to stay in Sainj Valley?
As a place that is just beginning to receive tourism, the options are limited here. Based on my understanding, the following are your options.
Forest Rest House Ropa, Sainj
This is a new official property devleoped at Ropa Sainj. It has both private rooms and a dormitory offering affordable stay for visitors. DO NOTConfuse this Ropa in Sainj with Sai Ropa in Tirthan, which has a similar property, which is better known. Interestingly, they seem to be offering online booking nowadays (I have not tried it yet).
I have stayed in Shangarh myself. It was an excellent homestay and more properties were being developed out there. It is as surreal a place to stay as it can be, overlooking the iconic meadow.
Upper Neahi is another village a short walk from Neuli. This area has also become popular with some popular homestays coming up in recent times.
What is the best season for Sainj Valley?
You can go to Sainj at any time although it is better to avoid the extreme rainy seaons of July and early August as roaming around is difficult in too much rains. Spring, summer, as well as post-monsoon seasons are delightful here. As for the winters, you may get snowfall that depends on the situation that year. If you are lucky, you can find teh netire Shangarh meadow covered in snow!
What to see and do in Sainj Valley?
Visiting Sainj is about visiting sundry villages, majestic meadows, intriguing tower temples of this region, and expleriencing local culture. If you want, there are scores of treks possible too.
Shangarh Meadows & Shangchul Mahadev Temple
As you can see, the grassy meadow of Shangarh village is an attrcation itself. The people who have seen both, believe that it is more beautiful than the meadow of Khajjiar, which is more famous. The Shangchul Mahadev Temple of Shangarh on the edge of the meadow itself is worth a visit.
From here you can trek further to another village called Lapah, which interestingly has a FRH.
This village again has become a tourist hotsepot where you can simply relax and enjoy if not busy in small trails. The lake dedicated to Pundrik Rishi is also nearby, but the lake has almost dried out due to natural causes.
Shanshar is even 10-15 Kms beyond the aforementioned places and still remains untouched with tourism. This region has many scattered temples in various villages but it will probably be better iof you have a locla person to show you the way. You can look for the Manu Temple in Shanshar as well as in Talyara Village, and also the the towers of Ashapuri.
This trek takes you to Raktisar, the source of Sainj River. It starts from Neuli and takes around a week. Raktisar has many mythological stories associated with it.
Sainj to Tirthan Trek
You can also do a trek that crosses over from one valley to the other. It takes 4-5 days.
Jiwa Nala Trek
Jiwa Nala is another river towards the west of Sainj. It is a tough one that starts from Siund Village near Sainj and eventually you can enter Parvati Valley. It also takes more than a week to complete.
Phone and data connectivity in Sainj Valley
Phone and data connectivity as Sainj works mostly till the lower villages. I have found the data to be working in Shangarh. I will update more once I find out.