I always had this dream, a dream to experience living in an igloo. But achieving this dream seemed a little difficult for me. Like most people, I was not sure whether there were igloo stays in India. Only recently, I learnt about Manali igloo stay, the first-ever igloo stay in India.
India is incredible in so many ways and Indian tourism has so much to offer. Keeping the spirit of ‘Incredible India’ in mind, I decided to surprise my husband with a never-before experience on our wedding anniversary. My plans coincided with my discovery of India’s first-ever igloo stay. Following basic research, I made all the bookings hassle-free with the help of a cooperative staff. They also gave me a list of items – waterproof gloves, glasses, sunscreen, thermals, woollen socks etc – we needed to carry to keep us warm during our stay.
We began our journey from Delhi on the morning of Feb 20, 2021. It was a long journey of 14 hours, made enjoyable with incredible sights along the way. The half a day road trip was a treat in itself, embellished with a beautiful sunset, lush green mountains, wonderful local food and full-of-joy hosts. The journey culminated at around 8 pm when we reached the Keylinga hotel near the Mall Road in Manali, and the adventure began. For supper, we had a delicious Pahadi style dinner with a view of snow-covered mountains near apple orchids in the Keyling Hotel and slept with the excitement of the next day.
The next morning, we had to start our adventure of staying in an igloo situated around 2 hours drive from Manali towards Sethan village. To reach there, you can either opt for a shared or a private jeep as it is a little difficult to drive by yourself on the mountainous terrain. The private jeep charges around Rs 3500 for a round trip. You can also opt for a shared ride and divide the cost with others. Before we embarked on our rocky 2-hour drive, the hotel staff briefed us about how to stay in an igloo and provided us with a snow dress and gumboots.
The ride to Sethan village is a little bumpy but as you start to see snow all around, it becomes serene. Adding to this, we were listening to local music which was a treat to the ears. Once you reach the Sethan Village, you have to take a little trek for around 3-4 km to reach the igloos. The moment you reach the igloo camping site, the view is breath-taking, a snow wonderland made out of your dreams. After reaching the igloo, we were welcomed with tea and snacks. We sat for some time, admiring the view of the valley and then started doing various snow activities like skiing and tube rides etc. After our lunch and a little hike around the valley, veg pakoras and tea welcomed us back in the evening.
The ever-attending and caring crew also made us a snow cake to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Unfortunately for us, we could only admire and not eat it. But the gesture warmed our heart on that freezing winter night. They also arranged a game of ‘Housey’ and played with us, before we watched “Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani” on a snow-screen projector, enjoying popcorn and soup under the stars. The experience was surreal, as someone had taken out my dreams and made them come alive.
Before we retired for the night, the crew also told us about how they came up with the idea of making igloos and how they love mountains and skiing so much. The igloo stay opens for travellers generally from the month of December end or the starting of January depending on the snowfall. People generally have queries like how it is possible to spend the night in an igloo under freezing cold, but the temperature inside is always 8-10 degrees higher than what is outside which makes it pretty comfortable and warm. Besides, the crew also provide you with hot water bottles and feather sleeping bags to keep you warm through the night. The friendly crew takes good care of travellers and their needs.
The one night stay in that igloo was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for which I am going to be forever grateful. We made friends, enjoyed long conversations and good music. At the end of the trip, the cost of Rs 5500 per person, which includes all the meals and snacks along with other fun activities and skiing lessons, looked like a bargain. I will be going there again next winter to experience sleeping in an igloo under the cover of snowy mountains.
Will you join me?