Kinner camps and the beauty of Sangla

Kinnauri apples in sangla

I woke up to the whiff of a freshly baked cake.But I was at the Kinner camps in Sangla, Himachal Pradesh and this was definitely a hallucination ( err what can one call smelling things that aren’t real?).

As I unzipped my tent and moved out, the most gorgeous views welcomed me. There were mountains and coniferous pines and fluffy clouds hiding behind the hills playing peek a boo.

Kinner camps tents
This view!

And then there was music: Music of the river Baspa roaring behind the camps. Music of the tiny, colourful Himalayan birds chirping and hopping from branch to branch. There isn’t a soul in sight. Just me, surrounded with flowers of every hue along the pebbled pathway leading to the dining tent.

Kinner camps gardens
Flower delight!

I follow the whiff. It leads me right through the stone steps to the tent where I see Tulsi immersed in work.

Tulsi is the ever smiling cook at Kinner camps. Nothing is a deterrent for him. He whips the choicest of gourmet meals in a tent from a range of exotic Chinese dishes to simple, homely Pahadi food. All in the boundaries of his humble Kitchen tent.

I am in awe of this man. He works like a genie. One moment you see him smiling behind the piles of green plates carefully pouring tea for everyone and another moment he vanishes to fill hot water bags for every guest to keep under their blankets for cold nights.

And today he is baking. My eyes widen in surprise when I see chocolate sauce accompanying a buckwheat cake.

Buckwheat recipes
The delicious buckwheat cake with my not so arty artwork.

He’s face breaks into a proud grin as he sheepishly presents his masterpiece, while I eye the chocolate sauce like a glutton.

I pester him to let me dribble the chocolate sauce on the cake and he accepts graciously. Gluttony wins over patience and I dig into this pure sin. Needless to say, it is delicious and he looks at me waiting for an approval. While I stammer with my mouth full of cake “ Tulsi Bhaiya, please share the recipe?”

I am given another sheepish grin. “Phir aap Sangla waapis kaise aayenge?” (If I share the recipe, why would you come back again?).

Kinner Camps is at Sangla, nestled near the banks of the pristine Baspa in the picturesque valley.

Kinnauri apples in sangla
Apples and more apples

It isn’t situated in the tiny town of Sangla valley, but further away on the road to Chitkul, the last Indian village on the Indo-Tibet highway. The road to Sangla is via the NH22, one of the deadliest highways in India.

How to reach sangla
The mighty mountains along NH 22

Surroundings: There couldn’t be a more perfect setting for Kinner Camps. The place is a natural retreat. I’d take a writing holiday here, for inspiration. No kidding.

There are stone pathways leading to the tents, apple orchards, flower beds of bright hues, mountains and birds and the river for company. The river is just a 10 minute descend from here.

Kinner camps sangla valley view
View from the tent

Service: Mr. Daleep Negi, the owner of the place, does a fabulous job of hosting his guests, narrating stories of Sangla valley, the unique traditions of the Kinnauri villagers and of the famed Ookhayang festival.

He even accompanies us as we set out to explore the village on foot. The Kinnauri hospitality is another worldly and one needs to experience it to believe it.

Food: My introduction said it all didn’t it? I have had exceptional meals here courtesy the expertise and magic of Tulsi. There was variety and taste in each meal I had. It is heartening to see mountain folks going out of their way with the limited resources they have. The dining tent reminds me of Flintstones with rustic stone tables!

Accommodation:

The accommodation is in Swiss tents, with attached washrooms and cozy beds.

Kinner camps sandal
Inside the tent: Kinner camps

Each tent has two chairs in the verandah where one can sit and sip coffee conversing with trees! The solitude is surely worth every penny they charge.

Kinner camps tent
My tent!

 

Things to do: If you feel like moving out of the place that is: 

Batseri village walk: A fifteen minute walk from Kinner camps leads you to one of the most beautiful, fairy tale like villages in Kinnaur.

Batseri has wooden cottages, endless apple orchards, smiling locals and the famed Badrinarayan temple with stunning wooden architecture. Don’t miss the heavily carved doors of the temple, with scenes of not just Hindu mythology but also Buddhism, Sikhism, Christianity and Islam. A tiny village with secular thoughts.

Badrinarayan temple Batseri
The compound of the Badrinarayan temple

 

The walk through the village will also lead you to the source of the Baspa river and you can complete a full circuit by crossing the suspension bridge and reaching Kinner Camps.

Kamroo fort: Visit the ancient Kamroo fort, perched on a hill overlooking the valley. It is a 30 minute trek and you might spot Himalayan griffons circling the skies as you climb to the beautiful doorways of the Kamakhya temple.

Kamroo fort
Kamroo fort, Sangla

It is believe that the idol was brought here from Assam. The silver door is exquisite and one need to cover their head before entering the temple premises.

Day trip to Chitkul: When in Sangla, visiting Chitkul isn’t an option. It is mandatory.

Chitkul village Kinnaur
The journey to Chitkul

The one hour drive is beautiful with the Baspa running alongside and buckwheat fields spread wide.

Visit Hindustan ka Aakhri dhaaba, take a walk along the Baspa and dip your feet in the icy cold water, watch animals graze, pick berries, visit the Mathi temple and enjoy nature’s own poetry.

Chitkul Kinnaur
Meadows of Chitkul

Rakcham trek: Trek from Sangla to Rakcham, through fruit orchards and pink buckwheat fields.

 

The hike is not too steep but takes a good 2-3 hours depending on your pace. Rakcham is a village lost in time. There are herders with their grazing mountain goats and sheep, friendly villagers, apple orchards and the river Baspa flowing through the alpine forests.

For those who do not wish to walk, can opt for a ride on the narrow road leading to this village.

herds of sheep in Sangla
Traffic jams in the hills!

Fact file:

Sangla is 239 Km from Shimla and it takes approximately 8 hours to reach via the NH 22.

The road is treacherous but the views make up for all the efforts.

The best place to stay is undoubtedly Kinner Camps, with their tent accommodation.

Best time to visit:

The best time to visit Sangla is June- October. For those who love apples, head there in September to see apples hanging in full glory.

Kinner camps apple orchards
Apple trees in Kinner Camps

For culture lovers, Ookhayang festival held in the first week of September is a grand attraction. Locally called the Fulaich, this festival is held for three days and the villagers celebrate it with great pomp. Villagers collect the elusive Bhramakamal flowers from the hills and offer it to the deity in the temple. There are dances and celebrations with local apricot wine and Kinnauri food.

This year Fulaich will be held on 3rd-5th September.

Things to shop: Kinnauri apricot wine, Shawls, Caps and Kinnauri apples.

Suggested Read: The Himachal Prelude.

P.S: This is not a sponsored post:)

30 thoughts on “Kinner camps and the beauty of Sangla

  1. Wow, incredible! This is the second blog post I’ve read about india in the past few days and its open my mind to actually travelling there. Your trip looked incredibly relaxing and so so good for the soul!

  2. Waking up and living amidst such beauty ……. like a dream!! Wow! I literally had tears in my eyes ….. as I have been reading posts on Himachal and the beauty of the places there just stirred up emotions!

  3. Kinner camps and Sangla both are our favourite. We cant get over the views and Baspa river. The amazing service of Mr Dilip and Tulsi are worth mentioning and admiring. I missed out kamroo fort and Surely will check ds out next time. Your post brought back so many memories. Loved it.

  4. I love those pictures! It seems like the most amazing region; geologically it reminds me very much to the Alps and middle european forests and then you have those temples and colourfoul fabrics popping up and it’s beautiful! 🙂 Thank you for sharing! One question, did you disable the copy paste function for your page? I wanted to copy the word “sangla” to check on google where exactly it is (wasn’t sure if it’s in india^^) and I got an error message -.-

  5. wow camping in that place must be amazing ! Wake up and see THAT view seems like a dream! I never heard about it before but now I can add it to my list. The cake looks lovely 🙂

  6. I hope that cake must have had apple as one of the ingredients. It looks tempting! Also, what else we require when a tent has everything that fulfills a person’s need.That’s some royal tent. 🙂

    Love the pictures and narrative, as always! 🙂

  7. You had me at freshly baked cake! The view from your tent is pretty amazing. Kinner Camps looks like my kind of retreat. Batseri also looks like a nice place to explore from Kinner Camps. Your photos and wonderful words have convinced me I need to visit!

  8. Sounds like a beautiful get away. You describe it so well and your pictures tell a wonderful story. The solitude and beauty is incredible. Love the response about the recipe…that made me laugh 🙂

  9. What nostalgic memories your post brought back.Wish one could package that lovely fresh invigorating air and get it back to Mumbai along with dear dear Tulsi and his super creation, the Buckwheat Cake !

    Thanks for bringing yesterday back once more dearest Divya.

  10. The tent accommodation and the verdant nature all around…seems like a beautiful dream I would never like to come out of it 😀 Loved the post!

  11. Beautiful pines, homemade cake and birds singing – what a lovely start to the day! The tents look really comfy to stay in. As for Kamroo Fort, I would love to visit it.

  12. Waking up in the midst of nature to the ethereal music of birds, rivers and other natural sources of divine music, is really one of the best experiences of life. Loved your description of the surroundings. I am really enamoured by those lovely apple trees. Would love to pluck a few and sink my teeth into one of those red beauties.

  13. Beautifully written. As a westerner, I too often imagine India as busy cities or typical destinations such as Goa with beaches. But seldom to we read about the beauty of the mountains and it’s culture. Thank you for making travel within my living room and know I have just added a new destination to my list of want-to-go 🙂

  14. Oh man, the smell of cakes baking is definitely what I want to wake up to when camping. And such unbelievably beautiful scenery as well, of course! The accommodation looks top notch – a slice of Switzerland in India, eh? – and plenty of activities to keep you occupied as well 🙂

  15. Sangla is in wishlist since long and what i loved most in post is apple orchards
    its my wish to pluck farm fresh fruits and I also want to ride through NH22, feeling the freshness of the place in the post
    lovely post

  16. Loved your writing. I could feel the freshness of the place in ur writing. This place is in my bucketlist hope to do it soon. Thank u for sharing the details making me want to go there soon.

  17. Was smiling while reading most of it (esp the disclaimer!). Can relate to your joy of seeing chocolate sauce out there in the camp. We had been pleasantly surprised like that when we were given a cake for breakfast on the salt flats of Uyuni! I still don’t get it – how do these people manage to be so full of life, kinds, generous and hardworking! Thank you for letting us know about this wonderful gem in the Himalayas.

  18. A perfect place for some time with nature Sangla is…other attractions nearby are an icing on the ‘cake.’

    There are very places which provide you with more than a couple of things that you love – this sure looks like one of them!

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