I am one of those travellers who appreciate the idea of visiting offbeat places and staying away from the tourist trail. Popular towns like Shimla or Darjeeling or Gangtok hold little to no interest for me. I would rather stay a week in some offbeat, unheard-of town located some 20 km south of Darjeeling that no one has even heard of before than staying a night in Darjeeling.
While planning a few days trip to Manali and researching a bit about what to see and do in Manali I came across names of a few offbeat towns – places that looked much more surreal and relaxing than Manali itself. As Manali, I have heard, has become one tourist mess in the recent year with more traffic to be found on its narrow lanes than in the capital city New Delhi. So as I searched more on the internet about offbeat places in Manali area, I came across this tiny Buddhist town of Sethan that felt like a perfect escape which is more peaceful than Manali.
Why to Visit:
Located only 15km from Manali, Sethan is a place for slow travellers. With no more than 15-20 houses under its premises, and almost no tourist visiting Sethan it remains a peaceful highlight of Manali. 90% of the families staying in Sethan are moreover Buddhists, who migrated from Spiti Valley and the adjoining areas of Tibet and they were given land permit/grant by the then Government of India offering a total unusual (yet equally beautiful) experience and a starkly different side of Himachal Pradesh – something that may make you think about McLeodgunj or Dharamshala. This way you can experience Tibetan Buddhist culture.
Sethan is moreover a restricted area, meaning, any tourist visiting Sethan require to obtain a permit. Getting the permit, however, is easy and requires about 100 Rupees per vehicle. The permit can be obtained while on the way to Sethan.
To get there, you can hire a taxi from Manali (please note that there is No public bus service available to Sethan) that may cost 1500 Rupees per trip. If, however, you’re driving, you can get all the way to Sethan on your own. Just pay for that 100 Rupees permit and trade-on.
If you’re not a very experienced driver, be advised that the road is not a very good shape and offers a total off-roading experience (that requires expert level driving skills). But rest assured, after 35 hair-pin bend you will be rewarded with the most gorgeous Himalayan views you might have ever seen in life. At nearly 700m down, you get to see the majestic Kullu Valley, with your eyes taking you to as far as 30 or 40km (or even more!).
Where to Stay:
Speaking of the 35th hair pin bend, is where you will also find the most ideal place to stay in Sethan. FootlooseCamps, as started by Dev (or Footloose Dev, as known in the travel community) , a full time travel photographer and a Nomad from New Delhi, who, after 2+ years of directionless wandering has now started a campsite in Sethan and found a permanent abode in the Himalayas and naming it as FootlooseCamps: a place for for those who appreciate the idea of living close to nature.
Footloose Camps promises all comforts of a traveler – from on-site parking to in-house wifi to a great ambiance. The campsite is moreover located in an Apple Farm, making the entire experience precious for the romantics.
The campsite charges 1200 Rupees per person per night. But it includes everything you may need: accommodation, all meals, unlimited hot drinks, bonfire, hot water for a shower, and anything else you may exclusively want.This is worth the amount for secluded Place than spending money on Manali.
Things To Do In Sethan:
If you are visiting during summer, the ideal thing to do is camping and trekking, because unlike Manali, weather in Sethan remains pretty cool (and warm during the day) making it ideal to relax under the shade of your tent.
Sethan in winter transforms into some place that’s hard to imagine in India. It looks as if someone has laid down a white sheet in the form of snow.It becomes Ski and snowboarding with perfect slopes in that area.
Other than being the route to Hamta Pass Trek, Sethan offers many small day treks/hike – with a popular one being a day trek to Lama Dug. Other day treks to Jobri-Nallah, Lover’s point and more, can also be tried. They are all fit for someone with medium-level fitness.