Nestled in nature’s beauty is an exceptionally scenic Himachali town of Sarahan, which houses the mighty Bhimakali Temple. With steep cliffs on one side and deep ravines on the other, Sarahan is firmly a defining part of Dev Bhoomi Himachal! So, next time when you visit Kinnaur or Spiti, do make a trip to Sarahan as well.
A major tourist destination, often known as the Gateway to Kinnaur Valley, Sarahan packs a punch in terms of nature, adventure and pilgrimage alike. Hence, any trip to Sarahan will not leave you disappointed especially when clubbed with Kalpa, Sangla and Chitkul.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
About Sarahan – Himachal Pradesh
Set against a backdrop of scenic pine trees and stately Deodars, Sarahan is a nature lover’s paradise. Yes, this statement can be applied for most settlements in the captivating Himalayas, however, each locale is often unique. With wildflowers all around, multiple guzzling streams and the contrast of apple orchards against the snow-clad peaks, Sarahan is truly a place that becomes an often repeat visit.
In fact, Sarahan is the home to Jujurana, a rare and protected bird – the state bird of Himachal Pradesh. Combine that with the relatively easier and pliable route – you’ll often find yourself daydreaming of the quaint place.
From a mythological standpoint, Sarahan is exceptionally important as it houses the Bhimakali Temple, which is part of the 51 Shaktipeethas. The legends are exceptionally interesting, even if you’re not a believer. Keep an open heart and mind and you’ll enjoy the yesteryear folklore with some never-forgettable views! Also, in the Puranas, the ancient Hindu religious texts, Shonitpur is identified with Sarahan.
From a historical standpoint, Sarahan was the Summer Capital of the erstwhile princely state, Bushaahr Kingdom. This kingdom was an important center for trade between Tibet, Kinnaur and the lower plain areas.
Sarahan is at a distance of 165 km from Shimla, the state capital of Himachal Pradesh. At an altitude of 7,589 Ft above sea level, the hamlet of Sarahan is located north-west from Shimla, above Sutlej River on Old Indo-Tibet Road. Sarahan is a connector to the Kinnaur Valley, often called its gateway.
The distance from Delhi to Sarahan is 507 km and it takes about 12-13 hrs to drive to Sarahan from Delhi. Most people come back to Delhi from Sarahan in a day after completing their Kinnaur – Spiti Valley trips.
Sarahan experiences ideal temperatures for growing apples. Thus, it is always mildly cold – making it especially pleasant during summer months and a bit cold during the winters. While the summer months experience temperatures ranging from 10-30oC, averaging around a comfortable 20oC.
Late July and August are monsoon months and it can rain anytime, from mild showers to intense rainfall. Kinnaur Valley beyond Jeori – Sarahan is not ideal for visiting in monsoon period.
Sarahan in December to February
On the other hand, in the winter months, Sarahan is colder, with temperatures ranging from 7 to -7oC. The major highlight has to be the snowfall, leading to a white winter wonderland in Kinnaur.
What is the best time to visit Sarahan?
This little settlement atop the Sutlej river basin, will provide you with your heart’s desire. Since the roads are well maintained and connected throughout the year, one can choose their preferred time. Whether you’re a religious person with your attention spiked during the Durga Puja Festival, or you’re like me and love connecting with nature – Sarahan holds the answer.
The roads are mostly well connected throughout the year with Sarhana and you’ll be happy to get into the heart of the hills. Choose your pickings for what you’d like to experience.
August/ September is harvest season for the apples and makes for a sight to never be forgotten, with the entire vistas turning into colours of fertility of the land. And the winter months are always a pleasurable, though cold yet always enjoyable experience when in the hills.
Having said all that, September – October (Autumn), and March – April (Spring) are two windows that I consider as the best time to visit Sarahan. You should also read my article on the best time to visit Kinnaur Valley for more details
How to reach Sangla Valley – Kinnaur
Sarahan lies just off the old Hindustan – Tibet Road and compulsorily requires road travel. Thus, whether you’re choosing Air or Rail as your means of travel for the majority of the journey, at least 165 km will be covered by road from Shimla to Sarahan.
There are two routes to reach Sarahan. While the primary and often used route is via Narkanda, In the winter months, this route might have limited connectivity and an alternate route via Kothi might be pliable. However, the possibility of this is remote.
The Route from Delhi to Sarahan via Shimla
Once you reach Shimla, you’ll be traveling through high mountains near the peaks for most of the part, crossing Fagu, Theog, and Narkanda. After Narkanda, you will start a sharp descend to reach Rampur and thus, your journey adjacent Sutlej river begins.
It is noticeably warmer in Rampur as compared to the higher elevation you were in till Narkanda. This is especially perceptible in the Summer months. After Rampur, you’ll reach Jeori. This is where you’ll take a sharp U-turn to ascend towards Sarahan.
Delhi » Chandigarh » Shimla (2200 mt) » Narkanda (2708 mt) » Rampur (1350mt) » Jeori » Sarahan (2314 mt)
In the winter months, the road to Sarahan from Jeori might be closed, given the heavy snowfall. Be prepared and a little easy with your itinerary.
Love food on the road trip?
Also, a pit-stop-must is a makeshift dhabha of sorts right after Sarahan where an old lady serves lip-smacking Rajma Chawal. Yes, the hygiene is slightly questionable, but it is a dhabha after-all! The taste is unbeatable. Rs 50 for an unlimited plate of Rajma Chawal – sign me up! Apart from that Annapurna dhabha near Jeori is the pretty famous for Rajma Chawal too.
The nearest airport to Sarahan is Jubbarhatti, in Shimla, approximately 165 km from Sarahan. However, since the airport is exceptionally small, it caters to limited connectivity. There is a bigger & reliable airport at Chandigarh which is fairly well connected domestically. The distance of Chandigarh to Sarahan is 275 km.
Hence, Chandigarh is the best place to start the trip to Sarahan if you are flying from any other part of India than Delhi or other Northern states.
The nearest railway station is Shimla as well, lying 165 km from Sarahan. Again, the station has limited connectivity. However, you can make an adventure out of it, by riding the renowned, historic UNESCO World Heritage Kalka-Shimla Toy Train
By Bus or Public Transport
Many HRTC buses ply the Shimla – Kinnaur (Reckong Peo) route. Also, you’ll be able to catch a semi-deluxe bus from Chandigarh to Reckong Peo as well running everyday at night.
You can get off at Jeori, which is 12 km from Sarahan. There, you’ll be able to catch a local bus, that traverses the route to Sarahan frequently or shared jeeps will also be available. This journey from Jeori to Sarahan will cost you approximately INR 50 and will take you about an hour or less.
You should look more details in the article on visiting Kinnaur Valley by public transport.
A road trip to Sarahan can be made by either hiring a commercial taxi or driving on your own car or bike. Road conditions are quite decent, so you will not face any challenges. However, there is a lot of extensive work for widening the highway ongoing between Shimla and Chandigarh – where you might face traffic jams. The road conditions deteriorate in Kinnaur Valley once you go further beyond it.
Taxis for Sarahan
Taxis to Sarahan are available from Shimla to reach any destination in Himachal Pradesh. You can always get connected with local taxi drivers in this list of taxi drivers in Kinnaur and Spiti Valley. However, this might be an expensive affair. The costing may be anywhere around INR 20,000 depending on the number of days of the trip (as of 2019). In general, these local drivers charge from Rs 3000-3500 per day for Kinnaur Valley or Spiti trip.
But, if you’re traveling in a group, this might not be that expensive of a proposition. And given that Shimla is an extremely commercial tourist town, brush up on your haggling and bargaining skills – will come in handy! Further, self-drive cars available in Delhi and Chandigarh are a great way to travel and can easily be booked from your starting location point.
To travel around Sarahan and to explore nearby hamlets, I would strongly suggest having a vehicle at your disposal. Exploring the quaint town is best done on foot and by matching your pace with that of the nature!
Sarahan – Places to Visit
Let us look at some of the places to visit near Sarahan on your trip.
Sarahan Bhimakali Temple is the major attraction of this village. As one of the fifty-one Shaktipeethas, Bhimakali temple, sometimes known as Bhimadevi Temple houses Kuldevi (presiding deity) of Bhushahr Kingdom. This temple is 800 years old and has the most unique architectural design. As per the legends, the ear of Goddess Sati fell at this location due to the Daksha-Yajna incident.
Thus, this became an integral location for Hindus. More importantly, Bengali folk hold this temple in great reverence, thanks to the eternal goddess that resides here. The statue of the Goddess is in the topmost story of the temple.
Few folks are aware, however, that the penultimate floor houses the shrine of the daughter of Himalaya – i.e. Goddess Parvati, and her divine consort – Shivji. There are three more temples located in the temple complex – dedicated to Raghunathji, Narsinghji, and Bhairavji (the guardian). Durga Puja is one of the biggest events for Sarahan. Devotees flock in high numbers to Sarahan, to celebrate with their Goddess.
Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary
Other attractions include Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary, which is location 4 km from the main town of Sarahan. With lots of untouched and dense forest cover, Musk Deer, Gorals and Thar are easily found here. The Forest staff is easily available and always helpful and forthcoming with advice and wisdom.
While exploring the sanctuary, do keep your eyes peeled for Monals and Koklas that can be found here. The best way to explore this region is on foot, and exploring the many tiny trails that will take you alongside mountain edges, and usually open up in the hidden valley of Kashapat! Happy Exploring!
Walk in Apple Orchards
Apple Farming is synonymous with Kinnaur and roaming about in orchards is a favorite activity. Try making friends with the farmers to truly understand their life and the exceptional hard work required to feed the world delicious apples!
Also, there is a natural water stream that is known to have medicinal properties near Jeori, right before starting the ascend for Sarahan off National Highway – 05.
There are few dhabas sprinkled along Sarahan. Local Himachali cuisine combined with the Tibetan influence defines the culinary experience of the region. The hotel you’re staying at would also be a good safe option for other cuisines, mostly limited to North Indian affair.
I have always noticed that food in the hills tastes so much better. I am unsure of why, however, the fresh produce right from the source, clean air, lesser pollution and the love and effort put into the cooking of food might have something to do with it. Would you agree with this? Comment below!
The standard affair of local Kinnauri Caps, Kinnauri Shawls, and Nehru Jackets are available for your shopping desires. All these items are readily available in the main market near the temple. Of course, apple jams and apricot goodies are a must have and a great buy in the region. Near the temple, you’ll come across unique religious items, representing both Hindu and Tibetan cultures, synonymous with the region.
Where to stay in Sarahan
There are few places to stay in Sarahan, for different budget requirements. Here are some of the Sarahan hotels or accommodation option that I can suggest for you:
- Hotel Shrikhand, a Himachal Pradesh Tourism Department Corporation undertaking resides on the edge of the hill. With its copycat architecture as the temple, this HPTDC Sarahan property is breathtakingly beautiful. With clean room and exceptionally stunning views of the panoramas of the valley and especially the Shrikhand Mahadev Peak. The hotel houses both individual rooms as well as a 12-bed dormitory.
- Bhimakali Temple Guesthouse – Breathtaking views, serene environment and right bang in the middle of all action, the temple guesthouse has personal rooms with balconies, a temple courtyard and even has dormitories available. However, it should be noted that the temple is an exceptionally beautiful and sought after locale, particularly for the pilgrims during religiously important festivals. Thus, plan your stay on your trip to Sarahan accordingly. At times, you will find cleanliness an issue in these rooms but upper floor rooms are in general much better.
- Apart from that, you can also stay at Jeori PWD Rest House. I have stayed up there a couple of time. If you can manage your own food, the rooms are decent and clean.
There are a few camping spots near the village or if you move towards Daranghati. You can easily spot some locals to help you out! So, do not hesitate to take your camping gear and spend a night under a billion-star sky.
You can check the list of some good accommodation or stay options in Kinnaur Valley.
Most Common Sarahan Itinerary
Many people visit Sarahan as a part of their Kinnaur Valley trip or Spiti Valley trip. In general, it is OK enough to use Sarahan as a stopover place either going further to Kinnaur or Spiti. However, if you have spare time at hand, you can spend a day or two at Daranghati as well along with Sarahan.
Sarahan to Chitkul & Sangla Valley
You can travel to Sangla from Sarahan after spending a day or two. The distance of Sarahan to Sangla Valley is 84 km and will take about 4 hrs to travel. Sangla Valley to Chitkul is further 25 km away and is an hr journey.
Sarahan to Kalpa
After visiting Sangla Valley and Chitkul, you should travel to Kalpa and spend some time up there before returning home from Kinnaur Valley or going further up to Spiti Valley. The distance of Sarahan to Kalpa is 95 km and will take about 4 hrs to cover.
If you plan to travel just Kinnaur, then it is better to reach Kalpa from Narkanda instead of Sarahan to Kalpa. Then while coming back, cover Sangla Valley and then stop over at Sarahan before coming home.
Also, sleeping at Sarahan before moving further to high altitude places will also help you decrease the chances of AMS issues.
Match your pace with the pace of nature and your surroundings, forget the time running out, and just calmly be. To truly relax and unwind, spend a couple of days here. For adventure lovers, there’s a tonne of activities that can be done!
You can follow my detailed and comprehensive day by day itinerary for Kinnaur Valley.
Other Tips & Tricks
- ATM – Easily available at Rampur, just 35 km away from Sarahan.
- Petrol Pump – If venturing from Shimla, in between, there are plenty of petrol pumps from Shimla to Kinnaur region. Rampur last petrol pump and Narkanda petrol pump are two that I prefer a lot. But if you are traveling further from Sarahan to Kalpa or Sarahan to Sangla, you should also tank up at Tapri petrol pump.
- Medical Help: A well-equipped hospital is situated in Rampur, 35 km away or next major medical help can be availed in Shimla, 165 km from Sarahan.
- Mobile Connectivity: Good phone connectivity, no matter what network you’re on. In terms of internet, you’ll easily receive 3G/4G signals throughout the town.
- Clothes to Carry: Most likely you will not be planning a trip to Sarahan alone. So, for Kinnaur Valley trip, it is advisable to carry warm clothes always as a backup. And, depending on the activities you take on, it would make sense to also have waterproof shoes or hiking boots or gloves etc. Especially if you’re planning on trekking the Kinner Kailash range then do ensure that you carry enough necessities.
- Preferred Vehicles: Higher ground clearance vehicles are not necessary for making a trip to Sarahan. It completely depends on your driving skills and how well you can maneuver the mountains! Roads are just in very much fine conditions all the way up to Jeori.
When in need of solace and some connection with the almighty, head for a trip to Sarahan or Daranghati. This beautiful valley town with snow-capped mountains as the backdrop will definitely make a lasting impression and leave you wanting more – exploring, knowing, listening!
Home to one of the holiest temples, it is often a source of comfort for many. Any place that helps in calming people down, believing in themselves and being at peace, is surely surmounted on happy vibes. Whether you’re a believer or not, visiting Sarahan will definitely fill you up with hope and inspiration.
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Please feel free to post any queries or doubts you might have in planning your trip to Sarahan in the comments section below. If you have been to Sarahan, I would love to hear your thoughts and any other information you might feel will be worth sharing with other fellow travelers and prove helpful to them as comments.
If you know your friends or family are planning a trip to Sarahan or Kinnaur Valley, do share this article with them to help them make a memorable trip to this part of Himachal Pradesh.