Have you ever been to Manali from Leh or Spiti? If yes, then have you noticed how the landscape changes as you cross Rohtang pass? As you pass the last signs of the cold desert that lie in trans-Himalayas, you see the harbinger of the yet to be reached Kullu valley. Let me introduce you with Kothi and Solang Valley.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Kothi & Solang Valley
Your eyes witness the remarkable change in scenery – lush greenery all around, impressions of streams running through the valley. The magic of Kullu valley is much more pronounced when you approach it from the trans-Himalayas. Looking at it from that height and then gradually descending down the valley makes you wish for more, you want to explore every nook and corner of it.
The broad open Kullu valley starts from the base of Rohtang pass, extends through Manali, many tranquil villages, Kullu town and Mandi. Beas river beautifully crosses through it. Loaded apple orchards and forests of pine and deodar cover these beautiful mountains. The valley is surrounded on three sides by Pir Panjal, Lower Himalayan and the Great Himalayan ranges.
Upper reaches of the valley house some beautiful villages, such as Kothi, Gulaba, Solang, Sethan, Prini, Tirthan, Banjar, Shoja, Jibhi and the heart of Kullu valley, Naggar. Pursuing my love for Himachal, I am going to write about some of these lesser visited and some fairly the gems of Kullu valley like Jibhi and Banjar Valley.
In this article, I am sharing my experience at Kothi and Solang – two idyllic places in upper Kullu valley. They are mostly on the checklist of tourists from Manali but I wonder why not many people stopover and stay here to absorb more of these beautiful locales.
Why Visit Kothi & Solang
I am always on the lookout for offbeat places near famous tourist centers. Because, vicinity to the usual destinations makes for an easy connectivity (keeping in mind the comforts of my co-travelers, usually family and kids :)) Offbeat nature of places helps us escape the usual rush (the plight of the chaotic lives of city dwellers :)).
Although, this unique requirement of easy accessibility and exclusivity isn’t always fulfilled. Though, on most occasions, I find a way around. During my multiple trips to/around Manali, I discovered such befitting destinations, that keep me away from the mall roads, main towns, traffic, and hustle-bustle.
During one such quest, I stumbled upon Solang. While staying at Solang I explored more of the nearby village of Kothi and found it pretty enough to spend more time there.
If this isn’t a good enough reason for you to spend more time at these places, then go there for the beautiful vistas and view of lofty snow covered mountains which are certainly going to mesmerise you. You can enjoy the place and its surroundings during a weekend (or long weekend) trip comfortably.
During old days, when people used to trek to Rohtang pass, Kothi used to be the camping site for Rohtang. You can still choose to do that, if you wish. The village is at the base of Rohtang and is also the last village before the pass. Being at a little distance from Manali, most tourists don’t stay here but visit the place especially during snow-time. This is the reason why you won’t find cluttered spaces here.
Bollywood fans would be elated to be here as Kothi has been featured in many movies. The highlight of Kothi is the steep and deep gorge through which runs the river Beas. Though Beas runs through the entire Kullu valley, but the gorge depth in Kothi makes it unique.
Kothi is a small village located en route to Rohtang pass from Manali, on the Leh highway. Situated 15 kms (40 mins drive) away from Manali town, Kothi is a picturesque village with fascinating views of mountains, Beas river and snow-covered peaks. The village has an approximate elevation of 13,500 feet which explains the beauty of high mountains that you see here.
Beauty and Solace are the two words that come to my mind when I think of Solang – a small side valley at the top of Kullu. Solang presents a perfect combination of serenity, adventure and natural beauty. Beas river running through the valley makes it even more scenic.
We visited Solang during peak winters. As we drove towards the upper valley from Manali, we started having glimpses of the beauty awaiting us. As we pulled over near our hotel, we were totally captivated by the white mountains covered in fresh snow with hardly any soul in sight. We knew right then that this is going to be a lovely experience.
Solang is situated 13 kms ahead of Manali at an elevation of 8,400 feet. The altitude attracts a generous amount of snowfall every year. The distance from Manali makes it a good destination to stay at (instead of Manali), at any given day.
How To Reach
Both Kothi and Solang are a part of Kullu valley – which is well connected to all the neighboring states of Himachal and Delhi, via a good network of roads. While coming from Delhi, board an overnight bus to Manali. Both State transport and private bus operators run regular buses on this route. Comfortable luxury Volvos ply from different boarding points in Delhi, viz, Majnu ka Tila, ISBT, Ramakrishna Ashram Marg.
From Manali you can hire a taxi to cover the last leg of the journey, which should cost around 500-700 Rs for a one way trip. Or get on a bus hitting Leh-Manali highway, Kothi is close to the highway and buses often stop here.
Self-drive to either of the destinations from Delhi is also feasible. It will be a drive of 540- 560 kms / 13 hr from Delhi and roads are in good shape.
Bhuntar (Kullu) airport (almost 64 kms away) is connected to Chandigarh and Delhi by regular flights. People travelling from other cities will have to opt for a connecting flight to either of these airports. Most of the flights from Delhi have a layover at Chandigarh.
The nearest broad gauge railway station is Chandigarh (313 kms/ 9 hours away). From here, you can either board a bus (6-7 hours) till Manali or hire a taxi till Solang/Kothi.
Una (Himachal Pradesh) is another nearby railhead which is almost 278 kms away.
Jogindernagar in Himachal Pradesh is the closest narrow gauge rail head, which is connected to Pathankot broad-gauge station. So, while coming from Delhi you can board an overnight train to reach Pathankot and from there, get on the toy train to reach Jogindernagar.
Solang and Kothi are roughly 177-180 kms from Jogindernagar. From here you can either get on a local bus to reach Mandi (138 kms) or hire a taxi.
Narrow gauge trains take much longer to cover the distance and further boarding or buses or taxis are going to increase your journey time.
In my opinion, the simplest and most cost-efficient way to reach Kothi or Solang from Delhi is by road, either via bus or self-drive.
Climate and Best Time
Weather of the region is cool to pleasant for most of the year. Temperature starts dipping right after monsoon. Moderate to Heavy snowfall happens during December – February, which makes the place popular among snow-seeking tourists from Manali.
If it snows well, then some years you can even find two – three feet of snow covering the valley usually in early January or December.. That is the time for winter sports activities here.
Summer months (April-June) are mostly pleasant with temperature hovering around 20 degrees.
March onwards temperature starts rising and June is the hottest month with temperature hanging around 25 degree celsius. It is still a good time to visit the valley to escape the heat of plains. During summer months, paragliding and zorbing become more popular here.
Monsoon hits the valley in July and continues till September. The rainfall may keep happening well in October too sometimes.
Winter is a good time to visit the place to experience the calm, snow-covered mountains. If your objective is to go on various treks then summers will be better. Paragliding happens here in both summer and winter months, that is a thrilling and beautiful experience altogether.
What to Do
Solang is a place where you can just step out and stumble upon a quad-biking operator tending to his machine and he would happily lend it to you for a ride, in return of a little remuneration of course. And that’s how we had our first taste of quad-biking in the snow. Wading through the snow on that big four-wheeled bike was fun and exhilarating. Solang is slowly becoming the adventure sport capital of Himachal Pradesh, and rightly so. Because the quality and number of mountain-sports offered here are quite good.
Kothi is more of a picturesque Himalayan village which will charm you with the view of majestic and snowy mountains, rivers and forests. The place is too inviting for a leisure stay, aimless walks and some planned treks. In addition to all this, you can do paragliding here as well.
Mountain-Sports at Solang
Solang is an enchanting valley famous for its ski slopes, meadows and the meandering Beas river. Completely utilizing the potential of this landscape, the valley has been developed into a mountain-sports destination. You can enjoy everything from quad-biking to snow-mobiles, zorbing to skiing or snow-boarding (if there’s enough snow) and of course — paragliding! There is a wide open ground at Solang dedicated to these activities.
A thick snow blanket covers the slopes of Solang during winter and turns it into a perfect skiing destinations. A vertical drop of 500 meters from the top of the slope makes it a paradise for professionals. Amateurs can enjoy the sport at comparatively softer slopes in the center of the valley. Trained instructors help both kind of skiers and some operators also offer skiing lessons.
You can do it at the ground or if you get a chance, like we did, on the snow-covered streets of solang. We cruised through the streets, down to the river bank and ended our sojourn next to a pretty wooden bridge to cross the river.
These motored sledges give you the thrill of zooming through the snow at a good speed. However, when you notice the muddy sludge these vehicles
create (both quads and snow-mobiles), you feel disheartened. The white and pristine snow covered slopes get turned into this (see the picture below).
Solang has good paragliding location and facilities. There are two take-off sites, one is at a lower level and another one at the peak where the gondola ride culminates. Paragliding can be done here in both summers and winters. You can appreciate the beauty of valley’s snow-covered slopes, dotted with oaks and pines in winters and the green meadows along the banks of Beas in winters. During monsoon season (July-September), paragliding stay closed.
You can enjoy the sport at Kothi also. Though paragliding at Solang nullah offers comparatively longer and higher rides, Kothi is a decent option for Joy rides and High rides, which are basically short duration flights (ranging from 5 to 15 minutes). Take-off site is near the gorge in the village and landing site is at Solang. View of mountainous landscapes from that height are amazing, displaying the green slopes, white mountains and blue sky.
For more details about the nature of paragliding as a sport, refer to my article on Bir and Billing which is the paragliding capital of India.
Next to paragliding, the most exciting thing to do here is the rope-way. Especially when the valley is covered with snow the view from the top is spellbinding. The cable car covers a distance of 1.3 kms, with a rise of 500 meters and speed of 6m/s. Refer to the picture for the view from rope-way.
When at the Solang ground, you are highly likely to be approached by various vendors trying to convince you to get clicked in Himachali attire, or with rabbits, or even yaks! If any apple seller approaches you with a good deal, take it. We brought home a box of the local produce for a very nominal price.
Some camping organisers arrange for night camps at the lush meadows of Solang valley in summers. You can explore this activity here as well. That’s one more fun way to enjoy the valley and the beautiful night sky.
Check Out the Bollywood Locations
Kothi is a small but picturesque destination and even Bollywood couldn’t stay away from it. Panoramic landscapes of the village have been featured in movies like, Tubelight and Krish. You can visit the spots and spend some time taking in all that beauty.
Step out and explore the gorgeous lakes, forests and peaks surrounding the valley. Locals at the village, or your hosts (hotel/homestay) can help arrange for the treks. They can send guides along too. Or you can contact any trekking operator in Manali to help you with the trekking gear and guides.
This is a short and easy trek which starts from Solang ground. You can opt for a mule ride (available near the ground) to cover a couple of miles up the slope. However, the last stretch of the steep climb can only be covered by hiking.
A magnificent ‘Shivling’ appears every year at Anjani Mahadev, out of nowhere. A natural phenomenon enables the water from the waterfall at this spot to transform into a snow formation (Shivling) during freezing winters. Mythologically, it is believed that Lord Hanuman’s mother Anjani meditated here. The slopes around the shivling are named after the famous Rishi Bhrigu and are called the Bhrigu slopes.
The snow formation starts appearing by end of December or earlier (if it snows enough) and manifests itself in full glory by mid-January. Its actual size varies every year but during some winters, it reaches up to a humongous 20 feet in height and becomes a sight to behold!
Known by many other names, such as, Dashaur, Sarkund, Shelasar, this stunningly beautiful lake lies in the upper reaches of Rohtang pass. It is a high altitude lake (4200 meters). A moderate level trek originating from Kothi village would take you there.
Surrounded by Pir Panjal mountain ranges, Dashir lake has religious significance for locals who believe its waters to be sacred with curative properties. The pristine blue water of the lake is guarded by lofty mountains on all sides. View of the mighty Hanuman Tibba, Indrasan and the Deo Tibba from here is magical.
If you are staying at Kothi, you may choose to start your trek from Rani Nullah, which is located on the outskirts of Kothi village. From here the lake is 8 kms away.
Another one-day trek in the neighbouring mountains of Kothi will be Patalsu peak. It is a moderate level trek which passes through dense forests of oaks and pines, and surprises you with charming views of the valley. The head of Kullu valley, Patalsu peak is located at 4400 meters above sea level. Experienced skiiers can even ski down from the summit of Patalsu to slopes of old Solang.
This one is a popular trek in upper Kullu valley. Bhrigu lake is located at 14,100 feet on eastern side of Rohtang. The lake remains frozen during winters and holds immense religious and mythological significance. It is believed by locals that Bhrigu rishi meditated and prayed here thousands of years ago.
If not for religious reasons, trekkers definitely go there to enjoy the unspoilt beauty of the Himalayan lake. It almost 6 kms from Gulaba, the neighborhood village of Kothi from where the trek officially commences.
So, take your pick and set the wanderer in you free to embark on any of these treks during visit here.
Enjoy the good old Manali town
Yes, you can also visit Manali and its many treasures while you are staying at Solang or Kothi because it is just 15 kms away.
Where To Stay
Although there are few hotels in the main Solang valley, it still has better options for accommodation as compared to Kothi. Some locals have started homestays in the area as well.
We stayed at Hotel Iceland, nestled in the heart of Solang valley – hardly a kilometer away from the sports ground. Cozy rooms with wooden flooring, room heater, hot water and an amazing view of the valley will greet you at this hotel. I don’t think you need anything more to have a good time in the mountains. Staff here is friendly with a decent service and good value for money. It is a simple hotel but gives you the perfect ambience to unwind and enjoy the tranquility of Solang at your own pace.
Kothi has very few and modest accommodation options. There is a HPPWD rest house, for which you would need to make the booking in advance or try your luck by just arriving there and requesting the manager for a room. Sometimes that works too, for short stays. You can refer to this article written by Dheeraj, for the process of booking rest houses or forest houses in Himachal.
The Apple Tree cafe and Lodge is a small restaurant with basic rooms, located near Manali-Leh highway in Kothi. The facilities offered here are minimal but you will get good food and nice view.
Both Solang and Kothi can be enjoyed during a long weekend stay (3 days). If you choose to go for longer duration treks or just take your own sweet time to relax here then 4-5 days should suffice to do all of the things listed above.
Day 1: Arrive in the morning and head to your accommodation. Enjoy the day chilling at Kothi and exploring its landscapes.
Day 2: Enjoy the snow-sports at Solang and go to Anjani Mahadve trek. It is short trek starting from the Solang ground. So, all of this can be done easily in a day.
Day 3: Embark on any of the treks listed above or if you wish, head to Manali for a day-outing. Board the evening bus or train for the return journey.
Day 4: If you choose to go on another trek on Day 3, then you would need this day to unwind or return from the trek (if you camped somewhere for the night). Board the evening bus or train for the return journey.
The beauty of this mountain-locked paradise should be enjoyed best during winters along with the snow-sports. In upcoming articles I am going to write more about the nooks and corners of Kullu valley and the many treks that originate from there. I hope this article answers all your queries related to Solng and Kothi.
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