Sainj, the twin sister valley of Tirthan, together with parts of Parvati and Jiwa Nal Valley makes up the UNESCO Heritage Great Himalayan National Park. Popular among the less explored and less visited places in Himachal, Sainj Valley is a vast expanse of green serenity spread over 90 square kilometers out of a whopping 1171 square kilometers of the Great Himalayan National Park. Sainj Valley is nurtured by the interlocking curls of River Sainj that merge into Beas River at a village called Larjee. The valley also has a wildlife sanctuary in its name that borders the National Park and is constituted by two villages – Shakti and Maror.
Less exposed to the outside world, the V-shaped Sainj Valley is a true milieu of culture, mountain living, agriculture, flora and fauna, and of course, simple and warm people. Before we start with our list of 5 things to do in Sainj Valley that you mustn’t miss upon while you are here, here are a few essentials:
How to reach Sainj Valley
Public Transport: Reach Sainj Market from Aut Bus Stand on Manali Highway by public transport. There are buses every half hour. A direct taxi from Aut to Sainj would cost INR 1800. If you are driving, slip right towards Larjee and follow the route to Sainj.
Best time to visit Sainj Valley:
Sainj Valley can be visited literally at any time of the year. However, Summer is best experienced from April to August, while winters are best enjoyed from November to January.
These are our exclusive suggestions and we know that you are good at keeping secrets!
1. Explore the mystique of Pundrik Rishi Lake in different seasons
The first in our list of things to do in Sainj is to witness the magic of seasons at the Pundrik Rishi Lake located by the Upper Neahi Village in Sainj Valley. The lake used to be a paddy field until cultivation stopped in the 11th century, as legend has it, after a brawl between the local deities. The stunning lake is a marvel to watch in all different seasons as its color changes every 4 months—thanks to the grass that grows over it.
In the golden haze of summers, the rains bring in fluorescence, while the winters adorn the lake with terraces of snow. All of it looks even more like a dream with a quaint backdrop — a tree island on the left, a wild forest on the right, and mountains watching over from all sides.
How to reach Pundrik Rishi Lake
From Sainj Market, a bus leaves at 11 am in the morning for Dehuri. Alternatively, you can hire a taxi for INR 800 or try hitchhiking. Shared taxis are also among the options to explore. A direct taxi from Aut to Dehuri would cost INR 1800. From Dehuri, the Lake is half an hour hike.
Homestays near Pundrik Rishi Lake: Bawray Banjaray Home in Jhili Neahi Village, Aastha Homestay
Note: The lake holds sacred values for the village. Walking into, touching, and littering around it, is strictly prohibited.
2. Enjoy the sunset from the highest point in Sainj Valley
The Great Himalayan National Park ranges between 4921.26 feet to 19685.04 feet of altitude ASL and Sainj valley’s highest altitude Thini Thatch is at 6000 feet ASL. Thini Thatch (thatch, translating to meadows and pastures in English) is a sprawling meadow that evokes awe with its sheer magnitude and an area that’s larger than any of the meadows famed as popular tourist attractions.
To experience beauty like none other, a trek to the Thini top is a must among things to do in Sainj Valley. The trek qualifies as easy to moderate and can be covered in 4 hours if there is no snow. When it snows up to 4 feet in winters, reaching the top can take up to 6 hours but comes with its own set of adventures.
The Thini top is a phenomenon in itself. Imagine a sunset at 6000 feet with nothing but the infinite skies and a quiet land calming your soul! If that’s not enough, there is something else in the store – a chance to stay in caves! Alternatively, you can camp by numerous water pools around.
Best Time to Do Thini Trek – April to July during late winters and summers, October to Early January in Winters
How to reach: From Sainj Market, take a taxi or a bus to Shangarh/Neuli. Trek to Thini Thatch starts from Daggara Village in Shangarh
Homestays around: Bawray Banjaray Home, Snowline Homestay
Experience Kulluvi Culture during Dehuri Mela
The villages of Sainj Valley exhibit and practice some of the most ancient Kulluvi traditions and culture. There are fairs and festivals almost every month, along with which comes the deity of a neighboring village to another. The host village organizes and hosts the ‘devta’ and the people who drop by in the procession that walks along.
One such village practicing quintessential Kulluvi traditions is a village named Dehuri, which hosts an annual fair, ‘Dehuri Mela’ in May. The fair is a celebration of community culture and you get to see some of the brightest colors of the ancient local traditions and holds some fun sports events.
How to Reach Dehuri: From Sainj Market, take the HRTC bus at 11 am. Shared taxis are also available. A private taxi costs INR 800 for one side.
Homestay near Dehuri Village: Bawray Banjaray Home
Explore the temples and the splendid meadow of Shangarh
If you are visiting Sainj, a visit to the lush green meadows of Shangarh is a must. Acres of open land lend path to an architectural marvel of Shangchul Mahadev Temple. The meadow is a sacred pasture, as legend has it, created by the Pandavas while they were on their agyaatvaasa run. The meadow is used by the cattle of the locals for grazing and is maintained by the devata committee. When it snows, the meadow remains easily accessible and can easily give the Swiss Alps a run for the money.
How to reach Shangarh Meadow: From Sainj market, arrange for a ride to Shangarh. The only bus leaves at 4 pm in the evening. A taxi costs INR 800 from Sainj.
Best Time to visit Shangarh Meadow: Any time of the year. Winters are a true spectacle.
Homestays in Shangarh: Bawray Banjaray Home in Shangarh (Luxury), Bawray Banjaray Home in Barshangarh
Stay at a homestay and interact with the people
Sainj Valley is home to houses that date back to as old as the 11th century. Villages located on the heights are made from Deodar borrowed from the dead trees in the National Park. Almost all the houses in these villages are tremor-proof and have survived some severe earthquake in the 1930s. The houses have their own mystical presence and the people are no different. You would easily come across 100-year-olds in every other village and what follows is a streak of stories unimaginable!
What gives Sainj Valley its unique ambiance is not just how its people have opened their hearts and homes for travelers but its traditions that are as old as the Mahabharata itself! The residents of the villages at higher altitudes have kept themselves from the outside world, some homestays have access to gharaats (the flour grinder powered by water and run on stones) and most interestingly, a lot of transactions are still bartered!
There you go! We will keep updating this list with time. All of what we’ve shared above can be done on an extended weekend. Try seeing Sainj our way and we will show you more of it in the next update of this post.