A Night in an Indian Igloo
A stay in an eco-friendly igloo in India: The first of its kind
Waking up in the igloo is the most amazing feeling ever. Coming from a country with low passport power, I never thought I’d be able to afford an igloo stay for quite some time. So when my friend Tej told me about this igloo stay in Manali that she was planning to visit, it hardly took any coercion to get on board.
Manali is a hill station in the North Indian state of Himachal Pradesh and is popular as a ski destination, but this is the first time igloos were being built here.
We flew into Chandigarh Airport and filled the long 10-hour drive to Manali with chatter. On arrival in Manali, we enjoyed some spicy Indian food and settled in for the night excited for what the next day would hold.
Come morning, our camp leaders Tashi and Vikas outfitted us with snow gear and said they’d pick us up after lunch.
We got to the camp just as the sun was setting over the horizon. As we drove through the hills with the many prayer flags, the clear crisp air filling our lungs, and we were all excited to see our first igloos.
On reaching the Sethan Valley that is quite close to the infamous Hamta Pass, we’re marched down to the igloo camp in the middle of the valley, slipping and sliding along the way.
Post taking a dozen excited pics of the igloos, we’re offered warm ajwain tea and then assigned our igloos. Girls in one igloo, boys in the other. Just like school!
Soon we’re having dinner by the campfire and getting to know the other guests at the camp. Funny stories are followed by ghost stories by the camp leader Vikas, and by the time we get to bed, it’s 2 am.
Tashi, the other camp leader literally tucked us all into bed. Boys first, girls next. He shows us how to make optimal use of our hot water blankets and bag liners to stay warm. His tricks work!
The next morning after a breakfast of tasty parathas and more ajwain tea, we go for a walk in the snow-covered woods. Come back, have more tea and then enjoy sledding and some ski lessons. The skis cost extra to hire, but the sled is free.
Tashi, our camp leader is a champ who’s won many skiing competitions. He’s also a great teacher. My friends learn quickly from him. I, unfortunately, am a bad student and ended up on my behind a number of times.
After the ski session, we’re given a lesson in igloo building. From creating the ice blocks to layering them, the entire process takes a few days. The smaller ones that house 2 or 3 people are built without frames, but the large igloos that house 8 people require a frame here in India (because there’s not enough snow).
Tashi then tells us that the igloos can take all of our weight combined, and it’s followed by my friends scrambling atop the igloos to pose for pics. Careful though, it’s slippery. I didn’t wear a glove on one hand and almost got frostbite from holding onto the ice with a tight grip. Wear gloves!
We spend almost an hour taking pics in all poses on all corners of the igloos. That’s followed by some more tea and soon it’s time to pack up and take hike up the mountain to leave.
All in all, it was an experience to remember!
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
It’s not easy to get to Manali. The normal route is to drive down from Chandigarh Airport or Delhi Airport.
The 330 km drive from Chandigarh Airport takes around 9 to 10 hours. It’s advisable to either land in Chandigarh early in the morning or spend a night in Chandigarh to prepare for the pre-dawn drive and skip the traffic.
The drive from Delhi to Manali takes around 12 hours. So again, start out early or spend the night in Delhi.
The shortest option is flying directly to Bhuntar Airport near Kullu Manali. And you’d be there in an hour. But cost wise you’d have to shell out four times the amount here – approx USD 500 for a return flight from Mumbai or USD 350 for a return flight from Delhi. Easy to see why most people prefer the drive!
Once you’re in Manali, the camp owners pick you up from the hotel and drive you up the mountains to the igloo camp.
Of course, it’s easier to have one person sort everything for you from the time you reach the airport till the time you leave. The people I went with, my friend Tej and her group offer customized tours across Northern India in winter or summer. Just call Tej on +91-9819055132 or email [email protected]
Do – Activities & Attractions
Stay – Accommodation
Eat – Restaurants
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
The igloos are built in the Serthan valley near the famous Hamta Pass in Manali, Himachal Pradesh during the months of January and February every year. The building of the igloos is dependent on the amount of snowfall had locally during the winter months. If there isn’t any snowfall that week, the camp leaders set up tents for visitors.
Safety – Possible risks
While an igloo stay (https://thewingedfork.com/manali-winter-enchanted-outings/) is a dream opportunity, you have be aware of the environmental factors involved. You will be spending the night in a room made of ice, literally.
This brings with it the chances of hypothermia. Although the igloo camp will provide you with snow jackets and warming blankets, you should ensure you carry your own thermal wear and warm clothing. Also recommended are a beanie, mufflers, mittens, scarves and anything else you require to keep you warm.
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
The cost of the night in the igloo itself isn’t too expensive, less than USD 100 per night inclusive of food, water and tea (not drinks). However, you’d also have to take into account getting there via flight or road, and places to stay before and after. Some of the equipment is free, for example, snowboards, but ski lessons are charged.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
● You’re going to be surrounded by nature. Try not to litter. The camp has a central bin for the collection of garbage.
● Yes, if you want to, you can tip the camp staff for hauling your luggage the long distance to and from the camp. They do really hard work.
Reality Check – Be Aware
An igloo stay is an amazing experience and something many people can only dream off. But make sure you are prepared for it. The walk to and from the camp requires a decent level of fitness. That being said, there are guides to help you along the way and you can stop as many times as you like. If you have a problem with asthma, carry your inhaler and any other equipment you may need; and make sure you inform the staff about your situation while booking your igloo stay. Hospitals are a long way off, and it’s best not to take any chances.
If you’re well prepared for your trip, you’ll have the time of your life, make some new friends along the way, and come away with awesome memories.
Abby blogs at TheWingedFork chronicling her quirky and crazy adventures in travel and food. She can’t travel as often as she wants to, but she makes time to travel as often as possible. She’s travelled across parts of Europe and Asia and loves writing about her experiences with people and cultures. Her favourite things are nice rainy days, the smell of cakes in the oven, playing in the snow, glasses of wine and dark chocolate.
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