A simple, but comfortable house with a large balcony overlooking cucumber fields is my base-camp in Naggar, Himachal Pradesh. I keep my luggage here and only carry a small bag with a couple of clothes for when I head off to explore a new part of this picturesque state. My stops in Naggar last for 2-3 days, long enough to hand-wash the limited clothes I’ve packed to last me 2 months and to catch up on work.
Walks to the nearest store take 40 minutes, and Manali is an hours’ drive away – with its Keventer Shake Store, German Bakeries, cute-sy cafes and all the other foodie temptations I could never resist in Mumbai. It’s a simple life here – no matter where you are, you can hear the gushing of the Beas River and it appears the loudest when I’m in my bedroom at night… when the sky is mad with twinkling stars and lights from houses on the hill in front of me, across the river, shine palely in comparison.
Unlike many capitals of ancient cities in India, Naggar is an inconspicuous one. This slow-paced sleepy village is lush green with little pockets of habitation located here and there. I’ve chosen to live in Naggar and not Manali because it is cheaper than the touristy hill-station, it ensures I eat home-cooked food and work all day, things that wouldn’t have been possible in Manali. I have managed to explore a little bit of Naggar, and here are 5 things you can do.
NAGGAR CASTLE – A gorgeous example of Himalayan “kathkooni” architecture, the Naggar Castle held the royal seat of power for over 1460 years. It is mindboggling to think of how such a majestic castle was built so many centuries ago, when the roads are underdeveloped, even today! It is believed that construction material was passed through a chain of men and women from the ruins of another fortified palace miles away. I enjoyed wandering around the courtyard and taking in the views from various arched windows in the castle. It is made of mud and wood with not a single nail hammered in, and now houses a restaurant, a museum and a few rooms for accommodation, run by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation.
History lovers, head to the basement and check out some of the old equipment, stone figures, festive items and paintings stored there. The Jagati Patt is a small temple in Naggar Castle and it is believed to be the seat of the Gods of Kullu.
Entry Fee- Rs. 30/-
ROERICH ART GALLERY – Visit the residence of a world-renowned Russian painter, now converted into a state museum, the Roerich Art Gallery. Nicholas Roerich was a philosopher who was so enamored by the Himalayas that he made Kullu his home and created hundreds of paintings of the mountains. The gallery also has paintings by his sons and testimonials from visitors such as Albert Einstein and Jawarharlal Nehru.
Here I am, entering the well-maintained Roerich residence, and sitting in his balcony, wondering about the thoughts that go around in such an iconic painters’ head, as he sat in that very spot.
One cannot enter the home of Nicholas Roerich, but one can walk around it and peek into the various windows to get a glimpse into his immaculately kept home, complete with knick-knacks, paintings and brushes. A short walk away is Urusvati Himalayan Folk Art Museum which is a research centre that studies history, art and culture of the Himalayan region.
Entry Fee- Rs. 30/-
NAGGAR BAKERY – An adorable home-bakery located just across the Naggar Castle, the Naggar Bakery has some delicious cheesecake and warm, indulgent chocolate cake with a gooey centre. You can spend perhaps half an hour in this tiny, cozy bakery. If it helps, I didn’t quite enjoy the burnt-tasting cappuccino or extremely milky cold coffee.
NIGHTINGALE RESTAURANT – While I saw a couple of signs advertising this Italian Restaurant, it looked dark and not too welcoming every time I passed by. On one particular day, I noticed freshly written specials on the board outside – the only sign that there was, in fact, a functioning restaurant inside. My table was the only one occupied, and there seemed to be only 1 person handling the entire restaurant. Thank God I entered, because the four-cheese pasta with chicken was excellent and our wood-fired pizza was generously loaded with bacon, ham, cheese, pepperoni and chicken. We left with huge smiles on our faces.
JANA WATERFALLS – Located at the end of a long, muddy drive, Jana Falls isn’t spectacular by any stretch of imagination. A few tourists visit here for the novelty of enjoying a meal in the water at the foot of the falls. There is one dhaba here that sells Maggi, tea/coffee, Siddu and a basic thali meal. To be honest, it is avoidable. I didn’t even take any pictures since I was so underwhelmed.
As always, some of the best sights can be seen by simply walking on the road with no agenda. I came across this local sitting outside his shop and painting. How amazing does it look!?
Day-trips to Manali can easily be done from Naggar. I’ll share the best restaurants you should dine at and things to see in Manali in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!
In the meanwhile, read my review on ShivAdya Resort, a handcrafted boutique property close to Naggar. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where I share daily updates and happenings on the road!