The Sangla Valley in Kinnaur, a long day’s drive northeast of Shimla, is regarded by many aficionados as the most beautiful in the Indian Himalaya. Thanks largely to the fact it ends in an impregnable wall of ice peaks (and the Chinese border), it’s also gloriously unspoilt.
The road to Sangla from the Sutlej Valley cuts across steep slopes carpeted with pine and cedar forest before emerging at a broad, open vale. Apricot and apple orchards enfold the tiny wood and schist hamlets scattered over the valley floor, each clustered around typically Kinnauri temple towers with steep slate roofs.
A famous trek starting at Sangla is the five-day circuit of the sacred Kinner-Kailash massif, which attracts a steady stream of mountain walkers and pilgrims in midsummer. Plenty of less challenging routes also wind up side valleys to remote shrines and hidden pastures.
The best place to break the journey to Sangla is Sarahan, overlooking the Sutlej Valley. The village is the site of one of the most picturesque Hindu shrines in the region, the Bhimakali Temple, whose traditional pagoda-style tower is framed by a superb backdrop of high peaks and eternal snowfields – an un-missable photo opportunity.