When my wife and I planned to visit Kulu-Manali, a friend who runs a travel agency in Shimla recommended that we should spend at least two days at Raju Bharti Guest House. I put it away in my mind at that time. Later, when I checked about the Guest House on the net I came across dozens of excellent reviews and pictures about it; most of them calling it amongst the best guest-houses in the world. My curiosity was aroused. Even though we had requested my friend months before to do the reservations, just a few days before our visit, he dropped the bombshell that no accommodation was available. I spoke to Varun Bharti, the owner’s son, on the phone and obtained accommodation.
Now that we have had one of the most pleasant experiences of our lives, I have decided to pen down a detailed review of the place so as to help others too.
How to Book?
You can get in touch with Raju ji or Varun or Karan or Vicky on the following phone numbers:
- +91-9459833124 (Varun), +91-8894488122 (Varun), +91-9459227375 (Rajuji), +91-9418149808 (Raju ji), +91-9805918124 (Vicky or Bharat Bhushan) and +91-9625211848 (Karan).
- The Facebook Profile where you can get connected with them: Raju’s Cottage – Goshaini | Tirthan Valley
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
How much will it cost?
It will cost you between Rupees 1500 to 1700 per day per person that includes all your meals, tea, coffee, juices etc. Please remember it is a guest house and there is no a la carte menu. Drinks of all varieties are however available on cost. We were there for two days and we can assure you that they give you more to eat and drink than you can take in. And the dining room is really your home there in addition to the cabins:
How to Reach
Even if you go to Kulu by air (Bhuntar Airport), you have to reach the Guest House by road. We traveled by car all the way from Kandaghat. To our pleasant surprise we found that it is very well-marked on Google Maps and Earth. From Mandi, it is a distance of 82 Kms. The Google recommended time is 2 hrs and 25 mins but you are likely to take more as you will be stopping every now and then to take pictures (the valley is that beautiful). You travel along the highway (NH3) from Mandi towards Kulu. Just before entering the Aut tunnel (53.6 Kms from Masndi) that would cut across the hill to Kulu, you continue straight to NH 305 and follow directions to Banjar (fairly easy; from the Aut tunnel you have to go only 28 kms to the Guest House, and Banjar is 19 kms away). At Banjar, after you cross the bridge over Tirthan River, you should be on the look-out for sharp left turn towards the hill (chances are that you cannot negotiate this in one go; perhaps it would be better to go further (10 to 20 metres), take a U-turn and then go towards Gushaini (10 kms away and the Guest House is 1 Km short of Gushaini). For most of the passage from Banjar, you have the Tirthan River to the left. When you cross the river and it comes to your right, you should be on the lookout for the Guest House. It is opposite the milestone on Banjar-Gushaini road that says Gushaini 1 Km.
Your first view of the parking place for your vehicle, the ropeway to cross the river and the Guest House would be like these. You can see the Gushaini 1 Km clearly in the first pic:
Who Should and Shouldn’t Go There?
If you are one of those who are accustomed to ticking off places of tourist interest (monuments, temples, museums et al) that you have seen, this place is not for you. This place is meant for those who want to put their hair down for two or three days and just let the beauty of the Tirthan Valley soak into their skin. Please remember that there is no staff in the Guest House. Raju Bharti the owner, his wife Lata, sons Varun and Karan and their cousin Vicky would personally look after you including helping you with your baggage, serving you in your rooms and dining rooms etc. Raju runs an 80 Bigha apple and other fruits orchard. The labour helps in the upkeep of the Guest House.
Raju Bharti, the man with the dark grey cap in pics below is the owner of a huge apple orchard and by all standards, a very rich-man. However, it appears that he and his family take the tenet Atithi Devo Bhava (Guest is Like God) very seriously. Hence, they don’t mind subjecting you to their personal hospitality, making you feel totally at home and even helping you with your baggage. In personal conversation with me, Raju ji told me that the idea occurred to him in the year 1999 and in the last 17 years they have had guests from all corners of the world.
What Can You Expect in the Guest House?
Raju ji and family have maintained this as an eco-friendly guest house. From the top building of the guest house (suitable for large families and groups) the next morning, we could see the labourers clearing the waste in an incinerator. All cabins and most of the fittings are wooden and it would come as a pleasant surprise to you that everything works: the faucets, the WC, the hot water geyser, and the lights. The cabins are very tastefully done and in the lower guest house (we preferred to stay there even though the view from the upper guest house is breathtaking), since it is right next to the gurgling Tirthan river, you get the vibrations all the while.
Dogs and cats keep you company. You can’t forget the names of the dogs: Bhalu, Bulbul, Yeti, Ghoju and Spiky and they follow you wherever you go in the orchard. We went at the time when the apples had been harvested. However, there were still some apples left (for birds to eat), persimmons, pomegranates and walnuts.
What can you do there?
First of all being there is a great thing; I mean to say how many of us have joyous river flowing next to your bedroom and being in the midst of a thriving apple orchard? As you can see in the above pics, going for walks in the vast premises, sitting in the gazebos, or around the fire at nights, and going to the river and fishing (we had trout fish for dinner that Vicky and Karan caught from the river) are great pastimes there. And then in case you are interested, you can go for a trek to the Great Himalayan Park or just laze around in Gushaini with a hanging wooden bridge that shakes when you move over it.
Raju ji and family have provided you with a sitting room too and everywhere there are periodicals and books and a few indoor games to play too. You can even spend time in reading all the messages left by the previous guests. I left one of my own too:
What is your take-away?
Two days spent here add two years to your life. In those parts, hills are not apologetically standing there but do so majestically. The river Tirthan flows blithely and refreshingly. The verdure of the orchard, the freshness of the clean air, the birds, the dogs and cats and above all the hospitality of Raju Bharti and family provide life long memories.
This was our first stop in Kulu-Manali hills. All throughout we also noticed the efforts made by the authorities in keeping the places clean, eco-friendly and litter-free.
Stay tuned for more travelogues.
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