Miyar Valley, unknown to many – even in the most ardent Himalaya lovers’ circle, is a stunning little corner of the world. Given that it is extremely remote and mostly inaccessible, the valley hasn’t gained its fair share of following. Yet. Miyar has it all – limitless meadows, stunning carpets of unique flowers, glacial streams. Located in the north-west of the Lahaul district – Miyar covers over 100 KMs and is a beautiful amalgamation of landscapes of both Himachal and Ladakh!
Given its remoteness, this valley is accessible to those who trek! Since there are no defined routes, the treks can be as short as a day or two to as long as 10 days or more. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say, and Miyar keeps unfolding into some of the most stunning, cascading views!
The locals like to refer to the valley as the “Valley of Flowers” and this trek will take you through grasslands, flower beds, mountain streams, moraine and boulders.
About Miyar Valley
Miyar Nala, as it is often known, is an exceptionally long S-shaped valley, which lies between Zanskar and Chamba. Covering a massive distance of nearly 100 KMs, with the Miyar River running into Chandra Bhaga River at Udaipur. This in itself covers over 50 kms distance from the Miyar Glacier. The glacier itself is nearly 36 km long all the way till Kang La (17,600 ft.) and beyond into the Zanskar Valley.
What’s beautiful is that a narrow gorge near the bottom of the valley is home to 12 little farming villages. All lying between 9,300 and 11,500 ft., with about 3,000 current inhabitants in total. The villagers are mostly of Buddhist faith and, thus, you’ll come across small Gompas (the one in Urgos is stunning!)
Locals of Miyar Valley
Cultivation of peas and grains, the main occupation in these villages – ceases at about 12,000 ft. Post this, you’ll be greeted by the most surreal of meadows! What boggled my mind, particularly, was a cricket field here! Isn’t the love for cricket in our nation beyond all belief? No matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing – if there is a field large enough – it will be converted into a cricket ground. So special! Oh I must mention, though a bit unnecessarily, that the views from the cricket ground are exceptionally jaw-dropping. With nearly 15 snow covered peaks visible at all times, you’ll be hard pressed to move forward!
Geography of Miyar Valley
The Valley is unique, it has some of the most beautiful landscapes and the presence of high-altitude Himalayan flora just adds to the magic. Along with the flora, you’ll be mesmerized by the meadows and the steep rocky side valleys. It almost becomes a game, a task to look for the beautiful flowers and wonder what they can be used for (a lot of these plants have medicinal purposes!)
Near the snout of the Miyar Glacier, at Phalpu, you’ll be welcomed into the Kesariyong Chu, seven icy sacred pools. These pools are highly revered in the Buddhist culture and you are allowed to bathe/dip in them for prosperity and prayers. On all sides snow-covered peaks abound, many of them unclimbed.
Thriving Flora and Fauna of the region
This is a huge selling point for me. To get to experience stunning, unseen, thriving vegetation is such a blessing! The journey will have you witness Juniper trees, Willow, Pine, Cedars, birch, Alder, Poplar trees along with some exceptionally colorful Orchids. In the summer and post-summer months, you’ll get to hear and spot many a migratory bird as well! I encourage you to interact with the local shepherds (gaddi) – they can share insights on the medicinal properties and help you recognize some of the herbs you’ll see. If you’re lucky, they will also share stories of how leopards attacked sheep in the recent times and other such folklore, synonymous with the nomadic life. Keep your eyes peeled for the blue sheep near Zardong.
A confluence of rivers and farming villages
What is surreal about this region, of course, is that the Miyar river forms an integral part of life here. Obviously. However, the confluence with the Chandra Bhaga river near Udaipr is an important pilgrimage in Lahaul. Further, revered peaks of Never seen Tower and Castle Peak are within a 2 km radius from the Miyar Glacier.
Introduction to the Miyar Valley TREK
The Trek in itself begins right after Udaipur in Lahaul. You reach the stunning, untouched, unexplored village of Shukto and then the magic awaits. The trail will take you through some of the most unbelievable views and terrains of Central Himalayas.
When in the valley, you will get to witness flora and fauna in all their natural glory! Wildlife here includes snow leopards, Himalayan bears as well as many flocks of migratory birds. Rocks akin to ruby and sapphire, crystal green glacial lakes are all awaiting you to visit.
The route in general will take you through vast meadows well above plantation levels, adjacent to rivers, grasslands and glacial streams. Combine this with sleeping underneath the stars in idyllic locations. Some of the key features of this trek include –
Multiples of River Crossings and boulder patches
An extremely thrilling addition, setting this unknown trek apart from most, is the multiples of river crossings! Throughout our journey, you’ll cross many a wooden bridge, with the Miyar river flowing beneath you in full force. Now if that is not a feeling of full living, I don’t know what is! There are two sections, in particular, where there are no bridges – you’ll be crossing the river itself. Not to fret, it is manageable, just keep your wits about you!
Rare Mountain Views
Since not many people are aware of the Miyar Valley, even in the trekkers’ circle, a lot of the views are uncaptured still. Rarely seen mountains such as the Menthosa Peak, Tharang I, II, III and the castle peak will be your accompaniments.
Best time to visit Miyar Valley
June to October is the best time to visit the area and embark upon the trek. The weather is supportive, the journey is easier and you’ll have access to more of the area. Winter months are a no-go as the entire region is covered in a thick blanket of snow.
The Route for Miyar Valley Trek
The route is scenic and will take you through some stunning routes. In essence, you’ll be covering the following journey.
Shukto – Khanjar – Thanpattan – Gumba – Zardung – Kesar Yon Chhap – Phalpu – Zardung – Gumba – Khanjar – Shukto
The Miyar Valley Trek – Brief itinerary
- Day 0: Reach Manali
- Day 1: Drive from Manali (6,725 ft.) to Udaipur (9000 ft.)
Distance – 110 Kms, Total Time taken – 3 hours (via Atal Tunnel)
- Day 2: Drive from Udaipur (9000 ft.) to Shukto. Trek to Doksa (12080 ft.)
Drive Distance – 22 km, Time Taken- 50 minutes, Trek Distance – 2 km, time taken – 1.5 hours
- Day 3: Doksa (12080 ft.) to Yoling (12,388 ft.)
Trek distance: 7.5 km, Time Taken – 5 hours
- Day 4: Yoling (12,388 ft.) to Zardong (12,782 ft.)
Trek distance – 12 km, time taken – 6-7 hours
- Day 5: Zardong (12,782 ft.) to Phalpu (13,008 ft.)
Trek distance – 7 km, time taken – 3-4 hours
- Day 6: Phalpu (13,008 ft.) to Gumba (12,732 ft.) via Miyar glacier snout (14,599 ft.)
Trek distance – 15 km, Time taken – 7-8 hours
- Day 7: Gumba (12,732 ft.) to Doksa (12080 ft.)
Trek distance – 12 km, Time taken – 7-8 hours
- Day 8: Doksa (12080 ft.) to Shukto (11400 ft.). Drive from Shukto to Manali
Trek distance – 2 km, Time taken – 1 hour, Drive distance: 150 km, time taken – 5 hours
- Day 9: Return home!
Detailed Itinerary for Miyar Valley Trek
Combined with above, here’s a detailed description of what to expect when you’re out in the Miyar Valley!
Day 1: Reaching Udaipur from Manali
The journey is slightly modified now, thanks to the Atal Tunnel. I have covered an extensive guide on Lahaul Valley and important things to cover previously, so I will refrain from discussing the route too much. One thing I want to highlight here is that you’ll see a stark change in the terrain and landscapes as you cross the Atal Tunnel!
A beautiful highlight will, of course, be the Sissu waterfall. Also, Tandi is an important point in your trip to fill up on fuel. From Tandi, you’ll take the diversion towards Udaipur.
Spend the night in Udaipur, acclimatize and relax. Enjoy the thrilling joy of being in a secluded valley!
Day 2: Head towards Shukto, then trek to Doksa
Shukto is the last stop on road. Once you reach Shukto, you’re starting your journey off in earnest! From the village, you’ll cross a suspension bridge to enter the village of Kanjer, roughly 30 Kms from Udaipur. This village will mesmerize you no bounds. With cultivation only occurring from June to September, you’ll be awed by the sheer will and hard work of the villagers. Crops include – iceberg lettuce, seed potatoes, apples, sea buckthorns, cauliflowers, barley, asafetida, and some medicinal plants including Kuth (Saucerrea lappa), mannu (Innu Racemosa).
After you cross the village, your trail will take you through many a farms all the way up to your first campsite on the journey – Doksa. This place is a slice of heaven. What’s wonderful is coming across the meadow-cum-cricket-field that is often used by locals. The mountains are also particularly disposed to rock-climbers, given the steep rock-faces. Spend the night here, where your view includes staring in Menthosa – the second highest peak of Lahaul and the crown of Miyar Valley!
Day 3: Journey on to Yoling
The trail today will take you through multiple villages and farms. You get to cross a river bridge as well! Initially you’ll descend and get to the bridge. After these, a series of descends and ascends takes you through a well-defined path. You’ll be crossing a Stupa today, for which the climb might be steeper, but only for about half an hour. After you cross the Stupa you’re in Thanpattan. From here on out, you’ll be on fairly easy trekking, with flat meadows surrounded by stunning views.
Today’s journey is stunning, with multiple sections of stunning flowers, all of different hues. Particularly beautiful is the path post Tharang massif where you’ll spot a beautiful growth of purple fleece flowers – aka Lupins!
Your stay for the night is Yoling, which has a water crossing nearby, adding to the eclectic charm. I hope you get a clear evening when here- because the sunsets just paint different colors across the mountains for hours on end!
Day 4: Head on to Zardong
About 7 Kms of overall distance to be covered today, with a very level walk and then a steep climb for about half hour. Today you’ll be experiencing an undulating boulder section, followed by an open valley with the views of Miyar River!
The day, overall, is a bit challenging, though, it starts off easy. After a levelled walk of about 15 minutes, you will be descending for the same time to reach a bridge. Upon crossing the bridge, there is a steep climb to reach the Gompa. A little way ahead, you’ll come across a hut, very close to the Gompa lake. Fill up your water supplies here. After the shepherd’s hut, you will be descending to some respite of a flat meadow patch.
But, the route ahead has some trickiness, requiring presence of mind. You reach a section of boulders, which will take you through multiples of ascends and descends, walking over edges in certain places. This particular patch is tiring, for sure. Eventually, you’ll reach the river, which feels like a well-earned, well deserved ease! Almost beach like with sandy shores of the river, and walking right along the gushing water – you’ll be making headway into the valley. The more you walk, the wider the river gets, majestic it becomes! To add beauty atop exquisiteness – you’ll be blessed with bountiful of flowers
Sleeping at the most exquisite campsites
The entire day will have you surrounded by flowers abound! The gradient change is not too heavy on the body and you’ll be ascending gradually throughout the day. The carpet of flower, however, will be a definite headline and a memory you won’t soon forget! Enroute today, you’ll be crossing the Gumba Nala, from where you’ll continue to follow the Miyar Nalla (by taking a north-west turn). Home for the night is Zardung – another show-stopper campsite. I can’t say this enough, but, the night skies from here will not let you sleep and you will be in a Zen-like stance for most of the night! The entire day, the colors, the visuals and the experience in itself is enough to leave even the most accomplished Yogis spellbound!
Day 5: Move from the stunning beauty of Zardong to Phalpu
Covering a mighty distance of 15 KMs today, the trail, thankfully, is a level walk by the steam. However, you will be crossing a few patches with many massive boulders. One of the most iconic places enroute today is Chhudong, which is a massive meadow. And, to top off the beauty – this patch is right next to the river. Though the day is long and never-ending, I would definitely spend some time here, soak in the views and remember the moment of belonging! The river in itself, is wider than anywhere else on the trek and the feeling is especially restful!
Due to the active river running right through the valley, the easiest route for this trek is alongside the river itself. This makes the route well-marked and easily noticeable – keeping you fairly safe! After you’ve had your fill of your heart’s desire of Chhudong, the gorge embraces you through boulder reinforcements. Subsequently, you’ll be on flatter grounds again and begin your rendezvous with the river! This will again be followed by a tiring journey through the boulders with an added challenge of some water streams. Your home for the night is Phalpu, located near Castle peak. Another very beautiful campsite with some gorgeous views of Tharang Peaks as well as the Menthosa peak.
Day 6: Phalpu to Gumba via Miyar glacier snout
The day is finally here, you’ll be touching the glacier snout! The journey is a bit laborious and moderately difficult, though, not unmanageable. After about 5 days of walking deep in the hills, you’ll be well prepared for the route. Key highlights include crossing 3 icy-cold river crossings along with the now staple patches of boulders.
Covering a total distance of 12 Kms is still mammoth. Though, not as challenging as your previous day on the trail, this is the epitome of your journey! After you get to the snout, I highly recommend spending quality time here to marvel at the stunning beauty of being in the vicinity of a glacier, with almost no one around. The last meadow on your journey is located about 30 minutes from the snout, near the seven icy ponds – Kesar Yon Chu. This is also the spot where the glacier begins.
Your return is from the same route, whereupon you’ll be crossing two more river crossings. Post Chhudong, you’ll touch a tricky spot with multiple boulders to manage. Then you reach your final campsite for the journey. Your vantage point today allows you views of both sides of the valley. Pure bliss.
Day 7: Gumba to Doksa
The return journey has finally begun. The end of a trek is usually so bittersweet. It is akin to gaining so much, yet not having absorbed all the changes in you, all the additions! Yet, the feeling of leaving a part of you behind is so strong!
The journey is quite dramatic today and it will definitely be easier and you’ll be in a trance like state for the most part! Enjoy your final night at Doksa.
Day 8: Doksa to Shukto. Drive from Shukto to Manali
Only 2 KMs on foot and you’re back in Shukto. From here, head on back to Manali and enjoy re-adjusting to being surrounded by civilization!
- I highly recommend keeping a buffer day (or two) handy. This can come in handy if the weather is not that great for you to embark on a leg of your trek. If not used, you can always enjoy spending a couple of days at the end of the trip in Manali and enjoy all it has to offer.
- The trek can be done solo. The route is fairly well defined. However, this is only so for seasoned trekkers with an exceptional understanding of routes and paths in the Himalayas. If you’re new to the hills, I highly recommend getting a local guide to accompany you. Also, this is especially helpful to ensure you have access to sufficient food and supplies.
- There is no electricity throughout the trek, obviously! The only place you’ll find a plug to charge your phone or camera batteries will be Udaipur (in Himachal Pradesh) before and after the trek. So, use your electronic equipment wisely! Do remember, the batteries drain faster in colder weather! Keep backup power banks!
It is hard to imagine a place so untouched by humans. With no one around, there is a sense of belonging that not many have felt before. As a lover of the hills, I can’t tell you of the sheer joy you’ll experience in this valley.