When I first reached Barot in Himachal Pradesh, I wasn’t sure how I’d last a week in an unknown little town. By the end of two weeks, I didn’t want to leave. Very quickly, my husband and I became accustomed to the serene beauty of the place: languid days spent soaking up the meagre sunlight, finger-licking meals served hot from the stove, and the quiet warmth of the locals.
We came across Barot on an online travel forum, while researching suitable spots for a last-minute holiday. There was so little information about this mysteriously remote town that we were instantly hooked. When we finally reached a tiny cluster of homes in the valley, unmarked by signboards or any of the usual trappings of a holiday spot, we wondered if we had reached the right place. The cottage-like houses are interspersed with a few small shops selling groceries and essentials. There are also a few medical shops, a couple of eateries, and a cooperative bank, which look like recent additions.
In the early afternoon, we watched men and women in traditional attire returning home via mountainside trails. Despite what must have been an arduous trek, their faces were beaming with smiles. We later learnt that they belonged to the local Gaddi tribe.
Over the next few days, Barot grew on us. We walked over to the nearby woods (less than a kilometre away from our homestay) passing the Uhl River barrage and reservoir. This barrage, constructed for the Shanan Power House in the nearby town of Jogindernagar, is right at the centre of Barot. Several of the homestays in Barot are located close to the barrage and offer clear views of the river. During our many walks, we passed local shops that sold fresh mustard oil, intricately woven shawls and jackets, and embroidered footwear. Being winter, the shawls were a tad pricey but after some negotiating, I was the owner of an exquisite handwoven orange-red drape.
At our homestay, owner Jagannath Paul cooked us marvellous meals, and shared stories over evening glasses of whisky with my husband, while I snacked on radish and pickled garlic, both foods that warm the body. Red-hot coal glowed in an angithi, a shallow metal box placed near our feet. As the warmth seeped into our body, the beauty of Barot permeated our souls, making us feel rejuvenated.
Walking around is the best way to explore this small valley village. The forests surrounding the barrage and village comprise deodar and oak trees. A number of popular trekking trails to Bara Bangal and Palampur begin here. Even the ones that start at Kullu or Jogindernagar go through Barot. The Barot-Kothi Kohr trek is around 4-6 hours whereas Barot-Billing is a day-long trek.
Earnest trekkers will find the Barot trails to be an explorer’s paradise. The scent of the tall, regal deodars is heady and exhilarating, especially when you are used to inhaling toxic fumes in the city. There is a sweet silence in the wooded forests, broken only by a waterfall or two or the rhythmic chug-chug-chug of running streams.
As we huffed up the mountain trails, we saw village women negotiate them with ease, some even with heavy loads or babies strapped to their backs. Many of them wore sneakers with their traditional outfits, making me smile. I was rather envious of their ruddy complexions, wishing I could live in this fresh, unpolluted air as well (for a detailed guide and map of treks and trails from Barot, see Guide to Trekking in Himachal Pradesh: Over 65 Treks and 100 Destinations by Minakshi Chaudhry; ₹350).
Over the last few years, Barot has turned into an attractive destination for anglers, since the clear waters of the rivers are great for trout fishing. Register yourself at the Trout Farm Office at Barot and apply for a license(01905-235141; a license fee of ₹100 per day is charged).
Those who aren’t into angling can visit the trout farms in and around Barot. Barot Trout Farm, a 10-15-minute walk from Uhl barrage, was established in 1959. It houses a huge storage tank, a few fish ponds, and a hatchery for breeding and incubation. Watching the large numbers of trout swimming about in the tank was a great experience.
A haulage trolley system constructed in the 1920s by the British connects Barot with Jogindernagar. Many stations are no longer functional but you can take a walk from Barot to look at it. The trolley is currently owned and maintained by the Punjab State Electricity Board.
One morning, we went for a drive on the road towards Jogindernagar. Living in Mumbai, I don’t get to see bright, green terraced fields often and greeted by the sight of an entire mountainside carved out in swathes, I couldn’t look away.
Another place to explore is Luhardi (6 km/1 hour north). Explore trails leading up the mountainside for vistas of the Uhl and Lamba Dug rivers. A short walk up a slope parallel to the Lamba Dug will give you a full view of the cloud-kissed Dhauladhars.
Set some time aside for the village of Multhan, 1.5 km/15 min by road from Barot. Instead of driving though, take the more picturesque walking route over a makeshift wooden bridge across the Lamba Dug.
Barot is a tiny village that has rest houses and homestays but no proper hotels. The homestays are sparsely furnished but their warmth, generosity, and traditional meals more than make up for their lack of decor.
Paul Lodging has homely food, warm water, and a view of the barrage (94180 11980; doubles ₹500).
Sachin Homestay in Multhan offers a good view of the Uhl River (98168 07627; doubles from ₹600).
Hira Guest House is a clean and convenient option (94182 60576; doubles ₹600).
Hotel City Heart is located on NH20, close to the main town and has basic amenities (98161 73750; doubles from ₹1100).
Hotel Rajendra Palace is near the Bir Road taxi stand in Jogindernagar (01908-252349; doubles from ₹600).
Hotel Trekkers Nest is about 4 km outside town, along NH20 going towards Mandi. It has parking facilities and a restaurant that serves grilled trout (94180 32356; doubles from ₹900).
There are only a couple of small eateries in Barot so the best bet is to eat at your homestay. The home-cooked meals are simple, delicious and often supplemented with fresh fish from the river nearby. If you walk across to Multhan via the wooden bridge, you will find a couple of eateries including Taj Riverview Restaurant (97367 47102), and Mountain View Restaurant (98169 63531). Peanut-jaggery gajak is popular across north India, but in Barot and Jogindernagar, it gets a bit of a twist. It is flavoured with fennel (saunf), which lends it a distinctive flavour. The sweet is popular during the winter season due to its warming properties.
Appeared in the March 2015 issue as “A Sight for Sore Eyes”. Updated in May 2018.
Barot is located in the Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. It is nearly 296 km/8 hr north of Chandigarh and 40 km/4 hr north from the nearest town Jogindernagar. The journey is long despite the short distance, because the roads wind through the mountains. There are quite a few narrow stretches in between that allow only one vehicle to pass through at a time.
By Air There are daily flights from Delhi and Mumbai to the closest airport at Bhuntar, Kullu (110 km/4 hr south of Barot). From Kullu, you can either take a bus to Jogindernagar and then on to Barot, or hire a taxi for the journey. Another option is to fly to Gaggal Airport near Dharamsala (90 km/3 hr north of Barot), which is connected to Delhi, Kullu, and Chandigarh.
By Train Jogindernagar is the closest railway station, and is connected to Pathankot via a narrow-gauge railway line. Pathankot is connected to most major cities in India.
By Road Barot is 296 km/8 hr north of Chandigarh and the drive via Mandi is pleasant. It is possible to take a Himachal Road Transport Corporation bus to Jogindernagar (40 km/4 hours north), which is well connected with Chandigarh, Palampur, Ghatasni, and other nearby places. From Jogindernagar, there are buses every half hour to Barot.
Barot is pretty small, so walking is the best way to explore the village. Buses and taxis to nearby places are easily available.
Summer (May-June) in Barot is pleasantly cool with temperatures in the range of 18-28°C. The weather is cool, but not chilly enough to make you run for a jacket. This is also the time when the Uhl and Lamba Dug rivers are in full flow, unleashing their majestic beauty. In the summer, flowers can be seen in bloom, bursting in a riot of colours. Winter (Dec-Feb) can be quite cold and the mercury often dips to between 0-10°C making it uncomfortable for those unused to cold weather. Winter days are shorter too, and it generally gets dark by around 5 p.m.