Manali trails : Snow, Igloos and Winter Fun

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Igloo? In India? Really? Normal questions that my friend Tejashree gets when talking about her trips to Manali in Himachal Pradesh. But yes, igloo stays are now economical and I’m so glad I got this off my bucket list. I want to one day stay in igloos in Abisko like my friend Michelle did, or the glass igloos, artic resorts and chalets in Canada, Alaska and Nordic Europe. But while dreaming of all these places, it makes me just a wee bit proud to say I already stayed in an igloo in India?

I mean, when Tej (that’s what we call Tejashree) from Enchanted Outings said we should celebrate 14 years of friendship by staying in an igloo, especially so close in Manali, India, I couldn’t say no. Well, I also couldn’t say no because they complained that I hadn’t been on a trip with them ever. So there goes. But this was perfect! Just think, the cost of staying in an Igloo in Iceland versus the price of staying in an igloo in my home country. Really a big difference!

Ad: My friend Tej from Enchanted Outings arranges budget and shoestring tours across India. To book with her and get a 10% discount email enchantedoutings01@gmail.com and give her discount coupon code Abby77.

Driving from Chandigarh to Delhi

So we fly to Chandigarh before our long drive to Manali. I won’t tell you about our friend Sam catching a flight that’s supposed to reach one hour later but getting diverted to Amritsar instead and reaching 6 hours later. Nope, I’m not saying anything about how we had to kill half a day in Chandigarh. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I can say we were lucky to spend that time doing a tour of the Rock Gardens, Sukhna lake and more. And I can definitely say that Dev was an amazing driver, and we almost flew through the subsequent 9 hour drive to Prini Village in Manali, which we completed in 7 and a half hours. (Yes, there are flights to Manali, but they’re for people with bigger pockets. For the rest of us common folk, it’s always a drive.)

Morning view of the mountains from Keylinga Inn - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Morning view of the mountains from Keylinga Inn

The night before the igloo camp: Stay at Keylinga Inn

We spent the night at the modern yet homely family run Keylinga Inn in Prini. Although we reached late, Tashi ensured that the kitchen stayed open for us. Getting there in the dark, we couldn’t see much. But the view the next morning was perfect and matchless. There are apple orchards all around, although the trees are now barren in winter. And we can see snow clad peaks in the distance. Located by the River Beas in the Kullu District, the little town of Manali is now a famous winter ski destination. It’s quite popular during summer among trekkers and nature lovers too.

Turning the prayer wheel at the Keylinga homestay entrance - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Turning the prayer wheel at the Keylinga homestay entrance
Spacious room at Keylinga - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Spacious room at Keylinga
The hotel rooms have a TV seating area and dressing area - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
The hotel rooms have a TV seating area and dressing area
My friends Tej Dev and Vishal starting a hearty breakfast at Keylinga Inn - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
My friends Tej Dev and Vishal starting a hearty breakfast at Keylinga Inn

After a big breakfast we do a bit of shopping and post lunch Vikas matches all of us to a set of snow jackets and trousers. We then set off for the igloo camp in Sethan Valley on the Hamta Pass road.

On the way there we stopped at the Backwoods Mountain Camp to take a quick look, but the guys waiting in the 4WD Forte said we were gone for almost and hour.

Stop at Backwoods Mountain Camp

Sunset beyond the hills: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Sunset beyond the hills

Well, it was one of those places you don’t want to leave. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The sun was nearly setting and we got some amazing shots too.

There are colorful Buddhist prayer flags everywhere - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
There are colorful Buddhist prayer flags everywhere
A stupa stands at the spot from where we need to walk down to the igloo camp - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
A stupa stands at the spot from where we need to walk down to the igloo camp

Some paths are lined with multicolored Buddhist prayer flags. Prayers written on these flags are carried by the Lung Ta or Wind Horse to all people. They spread compassion, wisdom, peace and strength. Anyways, we continue along the rugged path and finally made it up to Curve 35.

Reaching the igloo camp

There’s a Stupa that marks the spot from where we have to walk down to the igloo camp. We can’t actually see the camp at all.

Seeing the camp down below in the twilight - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Seeing the camp down below in the twilight

Tej says it’s almost a 70 degree incline. Ah my poor heart! After saying I’m not coming down there, we finally start off down the slope. (PS If you’re worried about the slope too, they found a 40 degree slope to take future guests down. So don’t worry. Even if you’re a senior, you’re in good hands with Vikas and Tashi’s team.)

Ad: My friend Tej from Enchanted Outings arranges budget and shoestring tours across India. To book with her and get a 10% discount email enchantedoutings01@gmail.com and give her discount coupon code Abby77.

So anyways, I have difficulty getting down the slope as usual. SO my friend Vishal helps me down. And we stop halfway down to take pics. By this time Dev and the helpers are already down in the igloos whoopeeing and Sam, Tej and are a bit behind us with Vikas.

Going down to the igloo camp in a snow filled valley near Hamta Pass - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Going down to the igloo camp in a snow filled valley near Hamta Pass

Once down at the campsite, we all inspect the igloos. In the dusk light, they’re perfect. But there doesn’t seem to be much snow at the moment. We’re informed that there hasn’t been much snowfall until now and more is expected in the coming weeks. (I’ve been informed that the groups that visited in Feb had almost 2 feet of snow and pure white landscapes.)

The igloos and the bogs in the dusk light - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
The igloos and the bogs in the dusk light

We’re then offered tea by the staff as we gather around the campfire.

Campfire Dinner

Camp fire to keep us warm: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Camp fire to keep us warm

Sitting on those wooden logs, it’s soon time to drink an ode to the legendary creator of Old Monk. RIP Kapil Mohan who passed away a few days earlier on 9th Jan.

Campfire Tales - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Campfire Tales
Our guide Laxman dancing around the camp fire - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Our guide Laxman dancing around the camp fire
Laxman adding more wood to the fire - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Laxman adding more wood to the fire

Here’s our guide Laxman dancing around the fire and then adding more wood to it. He’s studying for his 10th grade exams in Nepal, and comes to India to work during his vacations.

One of our camp leaders, Vikas then comes to join us and tells us local tales and secrets. The wind from the fire was blowing in my direction at one time, and he said it meant my sasu-ma loved me a lot. Sasu-ma means mother-in-law. Well, I haven’t met her yet. So we’ll just have to wait and see. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Our beautiful friend and trip leader Tejashree aka Tej: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Our beautiful friend and trip leader Tejashree aka Tej
Vikas sipping tea by the bonfire: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Vikas sipping tea by the bonfire
Dev keeping himself warm in the snow filled valley - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Dev keeping himself warm in the snow filled valley

Since the bogs are a way off, we go into the woods to pee. And try not to step on too much goat poo along the way. Glad the snow’s there to wipe it off though.

My feet in the snow – on the way back from peeing in the woods - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
My feet in the snow – on the way back from peeing in the woods

After coming back Tej tells us that in Himachal you’re not supposed to pee behind rocks.

“…Or at least not behind the big ones, since those are believed to be gods or the seats of gods.”

“You mean I have to pee out in the open?”

“No, just go behind the smaller rocks.”

“That’s practically out in the open. I’ll just go deeper into the woods then. See ya again if I come back.”

Making new friends

Honeymooning couple who were staying in a tent at the igloo camp - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Another couple who were staying in a tent at the igloo camp

There are such good vibrations around campfires, that it’s easy to make new friends, and we did. This lovely couple were travelling around Himachal by bike. Awesome sauce!

Dinner Time – Vishal and our host Tashi - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Dinner Time – Vishal and our host Tashi

And soon it’s dinner time. Yummy mutton masala and rotis, and of course cauliflower bhaji for the vegetarians. They even had special fare for Tej based on her dietary requirements.

After a few more hours of campfire fun, we’re put to bed by Tashi. Literally. Of course, he put the guys to bed first. 😂 After they’re tucked in, Tashi comes over to our igloo with hot water bottles and shows us how to place them under out feet before getting into the lining and sleeping bag. Makes for a cozy sleep. Zzz…..

Ze ‘ol tented loo: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Ze ‘ol tented loo
Tea time with Tashi in the tented kitchen - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Tea time with Tashi in the tented kitchen
Tea and peace for Tejashree - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Tea and peace for Tejashree

Breakfast in Hampta Valley

In the morning, it’s time to go the the old bog tent to attend to nature’s call and then head on over to the kitchen for a breakfast of lovely hot parathas and ajwain flavored chai or tea. The ajwain or bishop’s weed in the tea makes it much more tastier than our regular ginger tea from Western India. I’ll definitely having some more. ๐Ÿ™‚ Tej does too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ravens in the snow: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Ravens in the snow
A raven on a walnut branch in the melting morning snow: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
A raven on a walnut branch in the melting morning snow

There’s a raven in the walnut branches amidst the melting morning snow. My friend Sam took this pic. Isn’t he awesome? He’s also our designated photographer. ๐Ÿ˜‰

A walk in the woods with new friends - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
A walk in the woods with new friends
Down in the grove there are bare walnut trees - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Down in the grove there are bare walnut trees
Tej bonding with a new friend in the walnut grove - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Tej bonding with a new friend in the walnut grove
I found some mushrooms that shine like gold - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
I found some mushrooms that shine like gold

After breakfast, some of us go for a walk down to the walnut groves. The bare walnut trees reach the sky. I wonder how beautiful they will be in season, with flowers and fruit hanging. I also found some mushrooms on a branch. The friend who doesn’t want to be named found a few before me. They shine like gold, don’t they. Some of the stones do to. Probably, because of the mica in them? Or some other mineral?

Tej and Tashi enjoy a mid morning chat over chai - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Tej and Tashi enjoy a mid morning chat over chai

We come back and enjoy a morning chat over chai.

Enjoying rides and games the snow

Our new friends enjoy a walk in the snow: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Our new friends enjoy a walk in the snow

Meanwhile our new friends enjoy a walk in the snow.

Ready for some skiing lessons: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Ready for some skiing lessons

And soon it’s time to play a few games.

Tej and Vishal conversing in the snow: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Tej and Vishal conversing in the snow
My friend Vishal learning to ski - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
My friend Vishal learning to ski
Vishal after skiing down the slope: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Vishal after skiing down the slope
Sledging is awesome – Dev definitely thinks so – Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Sledging is awesome – Dev definitely thinks so
Tej enjoys sledging too – Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Tej enjoys sledging too

Skiing and sledging in the snow is fun. But for someone like me, who’s never gone skiing before, falling down in the snow a number of times is more fun. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Here’s pics of my friends enjoying the snow games. Our friend Sam is busy behind the camera as usual.

Sam and the igloo: Pic taken on my phone by Tej - TheWingedFork
Sam and the igloo: Pic taken on my phone by Tej

But we do catch him later posing next to an igloo. Finally, a pic of our designated photographer.

Layering ice blocks to build the bigger sized family igloo - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Layering ice blocks to build the bigger sized family igloo
Tashi from Keylinga Holidays at the Igloo - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Tashi from Keylinga Holidays at the Igloo
Tashi working on constructing the igloo - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Tashi working on constructing the igloo

While Vikas is attending to camp details, Tashi gives us a lesson on how to build igloos. The science is simple and amazing.  Read about it by clicking on the link above this. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Tej concentrating as Tashi says lets go over to the igloo - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Tej concentrating as Tashi says lets go over to the igloo

We’re discussing how it works, and Tashi explains that the igloos can take the weight of all of us put together. So that’s followed by all of us scrambling atop the igloo to pose. I’m not going to add my pics atop the igloo here because well, they look indescribably indescribable. But here are my friends pics.

Who needs Iceland I’m happy here: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Who needs Iceland I’m happy here
Dev and Tej on the igloo with Tashi standing by - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Dev and Tej on the igloo with Tashi standing by
Trip leader Tej and camp leader Tashi: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Trip leader Tej and camp leader Tashi
I’m on the top of the world. Erm igloo: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
I’m on the top of the world. Erm igloo
Tashi has an amazing pose and smile – Vishal and Tej on the igloo - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Tashi has an amazing pose and smile – Vishal and Tej on the igloo
Dev Tej and Tashi posing at one of the igloos - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Dev Tej and Tashi posing at one of the igloos
Final pics before starting to pack up - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Final pics before starting to pack up
Coming out of my igloo - TheWingedFork
Coming out of my igloo

After which I go back to the igloo to more lotion for my hands, and get caught on camera by my friend Sam. Reminds me of something else somewhere else that I loved. ๐Ÿ™ But I love this photo, even with my bunny teeth showing. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Oh, and yes, it was warmer that day than the previous might. So I had switched back to wearing my own winter wear earlier on in the day.

Packing up and leaving the igloo camp

Soon it’s time to pack up and leave.

Laxman the youngest guide leaving the camp with his load: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Laxman the youngest guide leaving the camp with his load

It’s funny how the folk living in the mountains are stronger than we city folk are. And although I’ve had farmers for grandparents and really hardworking parents, I don’t think I’d ever be able to carry as much weight as these guys. Hmm…

Guide Bittu waits behind for Tej and me and helps us go back up the incline - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Guide Bittu waits behind for Tej and me and helps us go back up the incline
The hollow carcass of a beetle in Hamta Valley in Manali India - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
The hollow carcass of a beetle in Hamta Valley in Manali India
Tej walking up the slope out of the igloo valley: Pic Courtesy Sam - TheWingedFork
Tej walking up the slope out of the igloo valley

On the way up Tej uses my phone to take pics of the hollow carcass of this beetle on one of the stately trees; while and the guys already at the top take pics of us.

Ad: My friend Tej from Enchanted Outings arranges budget and shoestring tours across India. To book with her and get a 10% discount email enchantedoutings01@gmail.com and give her discount coupon code Abby77.

Done packing up the others follow us out - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Done packing up the others follow us out

After packing up the camp, the rest of the guides follow us out. Have you ever noticed how the pine is still green while the walnut is bare? Anyways, it turned out to be a wonderful stay at the igloo camp in Manali and I loved learning about how to build an igloo. I really hope I get go back again; maybe longer the next time.

Ad: I absolutely loved my igloo stay in Manali, India with my friend Tejashree’s team from Enchanted Outings. To get an extra 10% discount on booking this seasonal novelty or for customized tours across Northern India in winter or summer Tej at email enchantedoutings01@gmail.com and give her coupon code Abby1717.

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Staying in an igloo in Manali, India - TheWingedFork

5 thoughts on “Manali trails : Snow, Igloos and Winter Fun”

    • None of those froze ๐Ÿ˜‰ only our
      thoughts froze ๐Ÿ™‚ thinking about what
      may freeze. But we had a amazing
      night stay !!!

      Reply
  1. Hey,

    That’s another amazing post and the snapshots are absolutely stunning and i am totally digging the Igloo Stay.

    All the Details which you mentioned about Manali will be very helpful for the travellers who visit it.

    Reply

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