INTRODUCTION :
Shoja is a beautiful village situated in the relatively lesser explored regions of Himachal Pradesh called the Seraj Valley/ Great Himalayan National Park. Its very green and the plus is that it is away from all the traffic that lines up the popular hill stations. Added attraction is that you can cover the places like Gushaini & Bathad on the Tirthan river in the same trip which are not very far but are very beautiful. Please read through the lines to get a better picture.
 
 
LOCATION/ HOW TO REACH : Shoja is located about 500 kms from Delhi. The place is on the periphery of the Great Himlayan National Park and is 5 kms from Jalori Pass which forms the boundary between Shimla Hills and Kullu Hills. There are two routes to reach Shoja - 1st is from Delhi - Chandigarh - Ropar - Bilaspur - Mandi - Aut - Banjar - Shoja. The 2nd route which is shorter but is more prone to disturbances due to landslides etc. is from Delhi - Panchkula - Shimla - Narkanda - Saini - Ani - Jalori Pass - Shoja. I would recommend the 1st one as its more reliable and the roads till Aut are very good and after Aut, they are very beautiful. Frum Aut to Banjar is about 28 kms where you follow the energetic Tirthan river. From Banjar, the road towards left follows the Tirthan river and goes to Gushaini and Bathad whereas the right goes to Shoja. After Banjar, its an uphill drive among thick forest passing enroute through Jibhi village. However due to adverse weather conditions at this height, this road is not very well maintained. From Aut it is about 2 hours and from Mandi is about 3 hours.
 
 
THINGS TO DO : The place is an idyllic retreat and is best to sit down and relax and watch the lush green forests. Other options are jungle walks, visit to the Jalori Pass from where you can take 2 walks - one to the Serolsar Lake is longer but less strenuous and the one to Raghupur Fort which though shorter is very difficult. There are picture book chai shops and a small temple at the Jalori Pass. Other better or rather must do option is to visit Gushaini village at the banks on the Tirthan river which is about 1 hour drive from Shoja. Its good to visit in June when the IRIS flowers are in full bloom and the whole valley turns blue. But still, the place is very forested, green and is soothing to the eye. Add the cold, crisp air at the elevation of about 2600 metres above sea level.
 
 
PLACES TO STAY : Banjara Retreat in Shoja. The second option is the PWD rest house which has an excellent location and well maintained lawns. Only if it had some better facilities like good food and entertainment, it would have been one of the best places to stay.

 
 
BOTTOMLINE : The better option to visit this area would be to stay at Gushaini at Raju’s cottage or at the Himalayan Trout House - both at the bank of Tirthan river. One can plan a visit to this place for a day from there. Route through tribal Himachal is very, very beautiful. Especially the drive from Karsog to Chindi.
 
   
  ITINERARY
 
 
Day 1: DELHI – SHOJA
Fly into Bhuntar. Drive for 2 hrs to Shoja. Check into retreat/guest house. Acclimatization walk to Shoja village in the afternoon. Evening around a bonfire.
 
 
Day 2: SHOJA – RAGHUPUR FORT - SHOJA - 10 KMS DRIVE. 5 KMS TREK/ 3-4 HRS
Hiking to nearby Raghupur Fort Meadows that overlook the Tirthan Valley in Kullu district in the West and Shimla district in the East. Drive to Jalori pass and walk in the open for about hundred meters towards Satluj valley before it heads straight into the forest on a well-defined trail. Half a kilometer later, a short steep climb takes one to a small meadow that offers a photo-op. A short rest and off you go into the Oaks and Rhododendrons forest slowly climbing up and then shifting gear for a final steep climb of 15 to 20 minutes. Here the tree line finishes and we move into a lush green meadow. A little up and we are rewarded with a 360 degrees view of The Himalayas, Dhauladhar and Kinnaur ranges, all of them in one sweeping glance. Keep strolling and in a while we end up at the dilapidated Raghupur Fort. The local people believe that an erstwhile king of Mandi province got this fort constructed hundred of years ago. Theories abound as to why this fort was constructed on a ridge where scarcity of water was a perennial issue. One of them will have us believe that this retreat was made in case the king had to retreat in to the mountains in case his kingdom was attacked by the enemy forces from the plains. Yet another popular belief is that the fort was constructed for the pleasure of the king away from the prying eyes of his family and subjects. Whatever the truth, the King could not have chosen a better location. One look and you would not want to go back. All around you are swathes of lush green meadows that gently descend into the oak and blue fir forests. The meadows also happen to be the favourite ground of local shepherds. It is a sight to behold with hundreds of sheep and goats munching around with not a worry in the world, with at least couple of shepherd dogs in attendance. Early mornings and late evenings provide an excellent photo opportunity. Hike back to Jalori pass and onto a waterfall. Picnic lunch by the fall in the afternoon. A short rest and hike back to retreat/guest house.
 
 
Day 3 SHOJA - SEROLSER LAKE - SHOJA - 10 KMS DRIVE. 12 KMS HIKE/ 5-6 HRS
Himachal Pradesh, with most of it lying in the lap of Himalayas, has an abundance of lakes. A drive to Jalori pass will take 15-20 minutes from the Shoja retreat/guest house. From there a well-defined trail takes one to the Lake. Few hundred meters on the trail and then you get in to the Oak forest. The sun rays filtering through the tree cover, the blue of the sky through the foliage, the up and down of the trail, an occasional sight of a bird, a clearing showing the huge green vistas cascading down to the Sutluj valley, all of this and more will keep you an enchanting company all the way to the lake. The lake makes up in crystal clear clarity what it lacks in size. The local belief is that no one has ever found a leaf floating in the lake though leafy trees surround the lake itself. Nearby is a small temple beyond which the meadows start. An average person may take about one and a half to two hours to cover the 6 km trail from Jalori pass to the lake. An early start will get you back to the retreat/guest house for the hot lunch. For people who would like to spend more time with the chirping birds, we will be too happy to provide you with a lunch hamper for you to enjoy an al fresco lunch on the banks of the lake.
 
  Day 4: SHOJA – DELHI
Drive to Bhuntar airport to fly back to Delhi.
 
 
 
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