Sethan Valley – so close yet so far! This tiny little unknown hamlet lies ridiculously close to Manali to be this unknown! Overseeing the Dhauladhar Range, Sethan is a great year-round destination for the folks that are not interested in the tourism trap. Lying about 12 KMs from Manali, the Buddhist village of Sethan provides a wonderland of activities and adventures to partake in. If that is not your scene, I urge you to still head on to Sethan and be mesmerized, blown away and plain gob smacked by the night skies! It is quite unlike any other night sky from any other vantage point – it is simply magical!
Covered in blankets upon blankets of snow during winters, and perfect place of rock climbing and bouldering in the summers – Sethan Valley has it all! The panoramic sight of Dhauladhar and the conclusive stillness is what gives Sethan its mystique. Lastly, before you get delving into all the beautiful information on the village, remember Sethan is a restricted area, and you will be hard pressed to find many tourists around! So enjoy the seclusion, dear explorer.
About Sethan Valley
This tiny hamlet of Sethan is home to about 10-15 families. Living life truly king size, these folks call paradise their home. The inhabitants are mostly migrants from different parts of present day Himachal Pradesh and are / were shepherds (gaddis) With snow-capped mountains and sun kissed peaks, this Buddhist village belongs to the Khampa tribe. Because the region gets exceptionally cold, with no farming possible, in deep winters – most of the villagers move to Kullu valley during winters.
Situated about 12 km from Manali, Sethan is situated at an elevation of 2700 meters from sea level. From here, you can easily enjoy breath-taking, study-worthy views of the Dhauladhar range along with the stunning Beas river cascading through the valley – beautifully dividing the Dhauladhar and the Pir Panjal ranges.
Sethan forms as the base for Hamta Trek.
The village holds a revered place in the Hindu mythology. Pandu Ropa, lies only a few kilometers away from the village. It is said that Pandava stayed here during their years of exile. Along with this, Sethan is also the starting point of the Indrasana Peak trek. The peak is worshipped as the throne of Indra Dev– the God of Weather for Hindus.
Weather in Sethan Valley
The village enjoys the most stunning weather palette throughout the year. Throughout the year, Sethan enjoys a different and distinctive flavor. During the summer months of June to October – the place is ideal for hikes and . In fact, there are multiple day treks you can embark upon when here in the summer months. These include Pandu Ropa, Lama Dug and Jobri Nalla. Again, Sethan is also the starting point of the popular Hamta Pass trek.
Coming to the winter months, Sethan transforms and transcends into an enchanted fairy-take land, blanketed by snow. Given that it is not quite famous enough to compete with Solang Valley – you can easily have a very exclusive winter adventure activity filled vacation!
Monsoon can be avoided as the mountains can be prone to landslides and the routes can become tricky!
Best time to visit
Depending upon what you’re looking for and the kind of vacation you want – Sethan can truly offer it all! So, January through early summer months up to May may be the best time to visit if you want to snowboard/ ski or partake in a winter trek. But, June to November summer months (barring monsoons, of course!) are best suited for unguided explorations and finding yourself in the wilderness. There are a bunch of adrenaline pumping activities such as bouldering in the summer months to keep you occupied!
Caveat here is that for winter months, do plan your trip in accordance to the snow schedule. For example, the slopes will not be ready for skiing in November/ December!
How to get to Sethan Valley
Situated 12 KMs from Manali – Sethan is easy to reach, once you get to Manali. Here’s the route for Manali and how to get there below!
Kullu Manali Airport in Bhuntar is 50 KMs from Manali. No one really like taking a flight into the hills and mostly the road is the preferred way to travel. However, if you do choose this way – then you’ll get a taxi to take you to Manali (or up ahead to Sethan – if you are not stopping over in Manali at all!).
In terms of convenience, the best airport with decent connectivity to the rest of India is Chandigarh airport. From here, you can get a self-drive car or a taxi or even a bus to make the 300 KMs journey to Manali and further ahead to Sethan. More on that below.
Joginder Nagar railway station is about 160 KMs from Manali and is the nearest railhead. Taxis, buses are available from the railway station to Manali.
This is the best route you can cover by road:
Delhi – Sonepat – Panipat – Karnal – Ambala – Rajpura – Sirhind – Fatehgarh saheb – Roopar/Roopnagar – Kiratpur – Swarghat – Bilaspur – Sundarnagar – Mandi – Kullu – Manali
Manali is about 14 hours from Delhi and about 8-10 hours from Chandigarh. The route is scenic, magical and thrilling. Sethan itself is about 45 minutes further from Manali. To reach the valley, follow the Kullu-Naggar-Manali Rd/Naggar Rd towards Prini for a magical drive. You’ll be crossing Aleo, and then further ahead will be greeted by some immersive hairpin bends (35 in total!). The route is fairly simple – though you do climb substantial height in the process.
In the bus, you’ll cover the journey in 45 minutes. The bus journey will cost you about INR 150. Check for buses on the website.
In case you don’t have your own vehicle – remember that Sethan is off the usual route. The taxi drivers will quote exuberant amounts- do bargain. On good days you may be able to get a one-way taxi for about INR 1200, can go as high as INR 1500 in peak seasons. Good Luck!
Sethan is a protected area, you will require a permit to enter the valley. This is available at Hydro Project check post in Prini for INR 100.
Things to do in Sethan Valley
If you think a quaint little settlement will not have much to offer – you need to visit Sethan to have your mind blown! There is so much to do, and so many different activities across the changing shades of seasons – you’ll be hard pressed to understand why is Sethan not famous! Then, you’ll feel a moment of delight that THANK THE LORDS this places exists all for your viewing (and experiencing) pleasure!
A beautiful winter activity, away from the hustle and bustle of popular valleys of Himachal Pradesh. Sethan provides from a perfect canvas to learn and master skiing and snowboarding. I urge you to get a local guide and also take precautions. Remember to dress for the occasion and lather on a lot of sunscreen when participating in such activities. You can rent the necessary equipment from shops in Prini and remember to keep yourself wrapped in good, warm clothing! Nothing worse than a frostbite when up a snow-covered hill!
If winter activities in Sethan are magical – then summer activities are not far behind! Get your adrenaline pumping and climb rocks of granite and gneiss. What’s perfect here is that there are different grades of climbing you can choose from, depending on your capabilities, experience and stamina. Right from the basic level of V0 straight up to the top of the scale at V12 – multiple spots are established for you to test your strength, stamina and grit!
This year-round activity is my absolute favorite. The joy of simply looking up the night sky is other-worldly (no pun intended!). I love the how the night skies tell us different stories, helps in calming the nerves and the takes away the worries of normal life. This experience is so meditative; it is almost an addition. Unlike other places such as Manali – which also enjoys exquisite night skies – Sethan is special still. The soothing atmosphere, the seclusion and the feeling of being the only one around is unparalleled.
Hikes and Treks
Settled amidst the fairytale setting of mountains all around – Sethan of course gives you plenty of opportunities for exploration. What better way to explore the valley, then getting lost in the woods? Offering many day-long treks along with some serious treks such as the Hamta Trek – you can’t complain.
Only about 2 KMs from Sethan, Pandu Ropa is a well-regarded religious site amongst the locals. Given its huge religious significance, the place is considered blessed and hence, farmers grow crops here, as they believe that this place guarantees abundance The trek in itself is not tough, quite scenic and takes you through a lot of stories, unfolding right in front of you.
Up further ahead from the Pandu Ropa – lies another important, mythological location. This comes in the form of the Indra Dev’s peak – Indrasana. Situated at a staggering elevation of 6,200 meters – the route takes you to the pinnacle of the throne of the Rain God himself.
I have discussed Hamta trek in great detail before, but, what I will say about this beautiful trek is that you can do it in the winter season – surrounded by a lot of snow! Truly a beautiful trek to embark upon – this journey will challenge you and push your limits. But, it will reward you and how! Stunning views, total connectivity with nature and peace awaits.
Where to stay
Now comes the biggest attraction of them all. You’d think that this village is so tiny, what you’d get is homestays and camping at best. Yes, these options are available and you will love both of these places to stay. Both offer unique opportunities to connect with the local folk or the beautiful mother nature all around us! But, what gives this place a unique flavor and truly a one-of-a-kind experience are the igloos. Yup, you read that right – igloo stays in the winter months!
Sethan Valley is astoundingly popular for its igloo stays. This is perhaps the only place in the country where you can go live in an igloo hotel! Truly a childhood dream come true – you’re truly in a fairy tale where! Grab a cuppa hot chocolate to keep yourself warm, cozy up with a blanket and enjoy the starry nights! What a joy, what an experience. The cost starts at about INR 4000 per night and the comforts are present, though basic. This place is #livingforthegram major travel goals personified. Though, the thrill of filling your heart with such a memory is a joy in itself. The best time for these activities is Mid-January to April.
What to eat
The best food is the food your accommodation will serve you. This is not a tourist place or even a place with a sizable population. However, the serves great maggi and good coffee along with the free mesmerizing views!
- Sethan does not get cellular connectivity. You can stay close by at Hamta Homestay – where connectivity is available. However, the charm of the village is tied to its lack to connectivity as well! You’ll be pulled away from the digital grid for once and nature beckons you to soak in every moment with unadulterated joy!
- The altitude gains exponentially right after Prini. You can feel the impact of Altitude Mountain Sickness, no matter how fit or young or able you are. If you are knocked with a douse of nausea or headache on the curvy roads, I suggest you take some medicine to calm your system. Alternatively – the best thing to cure AMS is to reduce your altitude as soon as possible.
Sethan’s fascinating exquisiteness would positively make anyone want to discover more of this place. Given its lack of exposure, along with the lack of connectivity – we need to be able to truly immerse in this experience. This is a winter wonderland and a summer adrenaline destination that I am glad is not super famous. If you head on out to this beautiful town – do remember to share the details with me – I would love to hear all your stories.