Beautiful Himalayan Villages in India: For Those Who Want to Escape the Cities
Nathan and I love everything about the mountains. The wee hours of the morning waking up in a small cottage surrounded by the guardian hills, the vagrant breeze that embraces your soul and the yards of sunbathing cardamom groves in quaint hamlets. These are the Himalayan visuals embedded in our hearts. There’s nothing better than spending a few days in a small mountain village (or, better, living in it) soaking in the ethereal beauty and calming life of the village folk. So this week, we asked some of our traveler friends to share their favorite and most beautiful Himalayan villages in India.
Himalayan villages in Himachal Pradesh, India
Starting this post with one of our most soulsoothing stays in Himalayan villages in India to the date, Dharamkot. Here, Arnav from Eat | Travel | Live | Repeat shares why you should visit the Hippie Village in Himachal Pradesh.
Dharamkot is unlike the other villages in the Himalayas. It’s a hill station near McLeodganj, but known as the Hippie Village, because of the amazing hippie vibes you get walking in Dharamkot. Just stroll around the market and you’ll realize this too.
Yes there’s a lot of amazing accommodation options available, including hostels like The Bunker, Zostel, Flugler as well as many homestays and a few odd hotels.
Even though its walking distance from McLeodganj, aka Little Tibet, a quaint hill station at one point, now a overcrowded hell during the weekends, you will hardly find any tourists in Dharamkot. And that’s the beauty of the place.
There are a ton of things to do, as recommended in this Dharamkot Weekend Guide such as going hiking to a nearby No Name Waterfall or doing the popular Triund Trek or heading to McLeodganj and exploring the town or going cafe hopping in the Dharamkot market, or a ton of other things, including just chilling and enjoying the charm of the Himalayas.
Samantha from Intentional Detours Travel Blog shares about the wonderful time she spent at Dhankar Village in Spiti Valley.
One of the most beautiful villages in the Indian Himalayas is undoubtedly Dhankar. Dhankar is located within the magnificent Spiti Valley, yet despite being surrounded by tons of beautiful villages, it truly stands out amongst the crowd.
Unlike some of the other hamlets of Spiti, no buses ply to Dhankar. It’s set about 5km from the main road, up a steep and winding pass that ends in some sort of paradise. The homes in Dhankar are quite literally built into the mountainside, and from the village’s main “road” one can be taken aback by breathtaking views of the entire valley below and beyond.
Back in the 17th century, Dhankar was the capital of Spiti Valley, and it is still possible to visit a monastery from around that time period. The old Dhankar Monastery- like the local homes- is also carved into the side of rock and is a true historical must-see.
Dhankar Village itself sits at a very high altitude- 3870 m- but what’s more impressive is the Dhankar Lake that visitors can trek to. Make no mistake- this trek is no simple feat! The steepness combined with an elevation of over 4000 m will certainly have you out of breath- but this lake in the clouds is undoubtedly worth the struggle.
Though don’t expect any cell service in Dhankar (BSNL might work for only an hour each night), you can expect comfort at the Bendurya Hotel and Restaurant. Though it too is built into the mountainscape, this hotel somehow managed to procure the utmost comfort- for approximately 1000 rupees a night we somehow found ourselves in the softest beds of our entire Indian adventure.
Though comfort is cool, so are the views- the rooms in Bendurya had an attached balcony that showed off epic views of the entire village and beyond. If you make your way to Dhankar- certainly check them out. The hotel is located very close to the old monastery at the very “end” of the village.
Mohana of Two Together says Rakchham in Himachal Pradesh is one of the most beautiful Himalayan villages she’s been to in India.
By the Baspa in the mountains of Kinnaur is the idyllic hamlet of Rakchham (pronounced: rak-sham). Wooden houses stand amidst orchards of apples and beyond the ribbon of the gurgling Baspa, rise the grand Himalayas– woods, meadows, snow– piercing the darkening skies. On a summer afternoon, I watched sheets of icy rain sheathe the mountainside and the massive tongue of granite that rose brazenly as an invincible shard behind Hotel Apple Pie.
Later that day, I would watch livestock being herded while talking to a young girl who tells me about apples, how they eat them all year: fresh and desiccated, tart and sweet. She has red ribbons in her hair and looks at me incredulously when I tell her that where I live, there are no mountains and everything is flat as a flan. The next morning, skies clear and the wind whistling through thickets of conifers, I amble around. Campsites have sprouted by the river, the grounds around them splashed with colourful wildflowers.
Pink fields of buckwheat sun themselves in fields. Buses to and from Sangla crawl like ants along the winding roads carved into the dusty mountainside. There isn’t much to do except marvel at the scenic beauty of the surroundings except hike around and chat with locals who migrate to lower grounds in winter when Rakchham is buried under metres of snow and the roads are inaccessible. You can travel to Chitkul, 9 km away, the last village on the frontier before Tibet. To get to Rakchham, skip the bus or car ride and hike to Rakchham from Sangla. I hear that the 11 km hike is as gorgeous as it gets!
Shubham from The Bum Who Travels writes us about the Thachi Valley in Mandi District, Himachal Pradesh.
I had first heard of Thachi in 2016. One of the locals remarked that it is a very beautiful valley with a locally respected temple. In May 2018, by a stroke of luck I boarded a bus in Aut which was headed to Thachi village itself. The wooden homestay is surrounded by apple trees and has a fabulous view of the valley below! Thachi is located at around 2000m above sea level and remains cool even in the summers.
Shubham recommends that you visit the Bithu Narayan Temple in Thachi with an 11 headed stone statue of Lord Vishnu. Hikes and jungle trails in the woods, with simple home-made food at the homestay. Buses run for Thachi from Aut bus stand, there are 1-2 homestays in Thachi village.
When we visited Manali, it was the off season in October. We stayed in the quiet village side. Otherwise, Manali is too crowded and isn’t the best introduction to charming Himachal Pradesh. Here, Mikaela of Voyageur Tripper shares us about Bahang, a quaint mountain village near Manali, India (so you can escape the crowds).
Bahang is a small and quaint village down the road from Manali, a popular hill station in the Himalayas. From Bahang, Manali is extremely close by rickshaw and even manageable to walk to, giving you access to the shops and restaurants. Yet, while Manali itself is bustling with tourist activity, Bahang is quiet with fresh air and towering mountains on either side. We stayed at Bon Voyage – A Luxury Homestay, and the owner was absolutely wonderful.
Initially we were only meant to stay in Bahang for a couple nights, but there was so much to do we ended up staying for ten days. The owner’s brother works as a local guide and they both took us on half a dozen hikes in the surrounding area. The hike to Jogini Waterfall was a particular highlight for me. One tip – bring a pair of hiking boots! Even though it’s a “hill station” the hikes can get really steep and I wish I’d had more than just blundstones.
And the last Himachal Pradesh entry is about Nako, shared by Soujanya from The Spicy Journey.
Nako is a remote Himalayan village located in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, India. Even though Kinnaur Valley is known for the majestic mountains and the vivid greenery, since Nako village is located at the far end of Kinnaur, near Spiti Valley (a cold desert), the topography of the village resembles that of Spiti – a barren land with lack of vegetation.
The striking feature of Nako village is the Nako lake, which is considered to be auspicious by the locals. The village also has a temple and a monastery that are the main attractions for visitors, apart from the lake. There are lots of homestays in Nako, run by lovely families that cook fresh, authentic local food for their guests. Since there is no connectivity in Nako, it’s common to enter the village, ask around and find a place to stay. There are plenty of options for everyone.
Himalayan villages in Ladakh
Sandy & Vyjay from Voyager take us to The Aryan Village in Ladakh.
A long drive of over 160 kilometres from Leh takes you close to the Indo-Pak border. The drive amidst the spectacular landscapes of Ladakh and most of it by the side of the flowing Indus is in itself an enjoyable experience. The destination too is special. It is a village that is known as the last Aryan village. There are actually 5 villages but one can only travel to two of these which lie side by side and are known as Dah and Hanu.
As you descend into the village from the rocky terrain, you can hear the gurgling of the waters of the Indus down below. The village nestles in a valley close to the banks of the river Indus and seems like a lost world. It is inhabited by the Brokpa community who belong to a group known as Dards belonging to an Indo-Aryan race. The inhabitants of the village are believed to be the last of the pure Aryans. They have their own unique culture and religion, though now most of them have turned to Buddhism. We visited the village as a day trip from Leh where we stayed.
Jitaditya from The Traveling Slacker visits Turtuk, one of the few Gilgit Baltistan villages in India.
While Turtuk is as remote and exotic as you can expect a Himalayan village to be, there is more to it. Turtuk is the only part of the the Gilgit Baltistan region that is accessible to Indians and the rest of it is on the other side of the border, with bunkers on both sides keeping an eye on each other.
However, don’t get alarmed by such details. It is a peaceful area now and that is why it was opened up for tourists a few years ago. Although now a part of Ladakh, the inhabitants here are Baltistanis with their own language, culture, & cuisine. The village, as expected, is full of apricot, seabuckthorn, and apple groves but another dimension is added by the palace and the museum that retells the rich history of the Balti people. You can also meet the King, the last surviving descendant of the Royal Family, and have a chat about the history of his family that ruled Baltistan for almost a thousand years.
Turtuk can be reached from Leh after crossing the more popular attractions of Nubra Valley. If you don’t have a vehicle, shared cars can be found from Leh. For the best experience, it is suggested that you stay at least a night at a local homestay, and try Balti food at local restaurants.
Nowadays, tourism has also opened up in Thang, a small village slightly ahead of Turtuk. However, this option is only for Indians as Thang is right at the border where the bunkers are. However, Turtuk is open for all and is already popular among Western tourists.
Himalayan villages in East and Northeast India
Trijit from BudgetTravelBuff takes us across the country to beautiful West Bengal. Here, he tells you why you should pay a visit to the beautiful Jayanti Village.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of busy city life and looking for a charming Himalayan village to spend some time in the lap of nature, plan a trip to Buxa-Jayanti. Jayanti is a small forest village located along the Jayanti river in Alipurduar district of West Bengal. Although it is an underrated place in India, the lively Jayanti river, the lush green Jayanti hill and dense forest have a charm of its own.
There are plenty of things to do and see in Jayanti including the famous Buxa Tiger Reserve where we did core jungle safari. It was a thrilling experience while going through the dense forest on a gypsy car. We spotted some wild animals including elephants, bison and countless birds. You can also go for a hike to Mahakal temple. It was an easy hike and the entire trail was very scenic. The best part was we had to cross the river 3 times on foot and it was really a fun and exciting experience.
We stayed in Jayanti River View Homestay which is cheap and situated just beside the Jayanti river. It offers a breathtaking view of the Jayanti river along with Jayanti hill on the background.
From West Bengal, let’s take a small trip to its neighbor, the landlocked (ex) Himalayan kingdom, Sikkim. I stayed a month there in last September and my time in Sikkim was filled with fond memories. I stayed in three beautiful villages: Dzongu in North Sikkim, Bakhim in South Sikkim and Sribadam in West Sikkim.
I cannot pick a favorite because they are beautiful in their own way. In Dzongu, I walked along the lush green paddy terraces and drank millet beer from a bamboo cup. In Bakhim, my host brought me fresh milk every morning from their small farm. In Sribadam, I went to deodar forests and listened to birdsong retreating by the seasonal cascades.
The below photos are from my time in Sribadam.
So Jayashree from DoiBedouin shares about another beautiful Himalayan village in Sikkim: Rayong Bustee, South Sikkim
A lazed pace through the driveway with a mountain range static in the skyline, gaping downright, resonating with the very simplicity of the locale. The native houses by one side of the road, while a series of the firs on the other, serenades your walkthrough for the entire stretch of the Bustee (literally translating to local village). Be sure to have the range exclusively to yourself, and no surge of tourists for miles.
This is Rayong Bustee of South Sikkim.
With more than a handful of houses, a playground and a church lining up the turns of the road, Rayong Bustee also offers a wide-angle view of the Kanchendzonga range from the Sunrise View Point. The landscape arrests all the beauties of a mountainous corridor, the tranquil shadows of the trees, winds, and whispers breezing through the conifers, and an impeccably white range. By the dusk, however, it is exasperatingly cold, which could be cut down by few slurps of drinks. It is still better to have a stay in Ravangla, the nearby town, and opt for a day visit to Rayong from therein.
Taking you to far northeast, India’s mesmerizing Arunachal Pradesh. It’s little known to outsiders but beg to be explored with its gorgeous vistas and snow-clad peaks. Simanta from The Random Trotters shares about one of his favorite villages in Arunachal Pradesh: Sangti Village in West Kameng District, Arunachal Pradesh
Lying in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas, Sangti is a quaint little village in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It is situated at a distance of around 13 km from Dirang, the nearest town. For the uninitiated, Sangti is a valley of sprawling meadows, stunning hills and rustic wonders at the heart of the West Kameng district. The small village by the Dirang Chu River is filled with orange and kiwi orchards and is adorned with intricate home structures typical of the traditional way of life. The villagers are humble and playful. They may heartily offer you oranges and kiwis when you pass by them. You can climb up a hill and sit under a stupa while peeling an orange and looking over the thriving valley. That’s Sangti for you.
We are ending this round up blog post with a couple of personal recommendations from North East India. Meghalaya is far from the quintessential Himalayan scenery. But the region belongs to Eastern foothills of the Indian Himalayas.
In the South West Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, you will find flowing rivers, stunning corn fields and small hamlets dotted with bamboo houses. Camp in the wild or stay a night at the well-managed community homestay in Nonglang.
In the West Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya, I’ve left a piece of my heart in beautiful Phe The Falls. Phe Phe in local Jaintia language translates to paradise.
Here in the hills of Jaintia, I sat on the highway as the crisp, thin air of the Meghalayan hills embraced me. In one cold night in December, stars dotted the skies up above us. In the pretty autumnal days in October, I twirled in a boat, met dozens of Asian pitcher plants and watched bright-hued wildflowers dance in the morning glory.
Until we return to the mountains