The igloo hotel stay offers a unique experience in the Hamta valley near Manali every year during winter.
By December 10, the first igloo was up and running, ready to be booked.
Manali igloo stay: Get ready for an eskimo experience! As the eventful year comes to an end, people who have been stuck at home through most of the year due to the pandemic-induced lockdown have been wanting to go out to travel. While everyone is looking up for places to go to, the Igloo Hotel Stay in Manali has opened up again. The first igloo hotel stay in India has now returned for another season, ready to entertain guests and provide them with an adventurous experience so that the year can end on a good note. As the holiday season begins and guests start trickling in, Vikas Kumar of the Keylinga Himalayan Adventures caught Financial Express Online’s Bulbul Dhawan up to the progress so far.
The igloo hotel stay offers a unique experience in the Hamta valley near Manali every year during winter. This year, the snow came a little early, allowing Vikas and his team of five men to start the work on building sturdy igloos in the first week of December. By December 10, the first igloo was up and running, ready to be booked. Out of five igloos that the group builds, four are now functioning, and the fifth one would be coming up within a few days.
Though things are finally starting to look up for Vikas and his team, the pandemic highly affected their tourism business this year. “Last season, the snow had been good and the conditions were favourable enough that we could have operated the igloo stay till mid-April, but due to the news of rising cases, we closed down on March 17, and a few days after that, the nation-wide lockdown was announced. Because of that, we had no business for our base hotel either during the summer, and we were totally free,” Vikas told Financial Express Online in an interaction.
Not all was lost, though. Vikas decided to look at things in a positive light. “We are originally farmers and own apple farms. Because we had no work in the tourism industry, we got back to tending to our farms which were being neglected for a few years. Not only that, we also grew vegetables during the summer, because we had a lot of free time. That led to a good yield. The income from tourism was nil, so we were living on whatever we were growing. The pandmeic taught me an important lesson. If I have my farm and if I am connected to the Earth, I can grow and eat,” he said.
While they survived their summers on farming, things have taken a turn for the better for them. The igloo stay is completely booked for December, which Vikas says is the peak time for them. There are not many queries for January, yet. Still, he is hoping for a better turnout this year. Counting day adventurers, the group had last year entertained over 200 guests. This season so far, the number of visitors has crossed 100. “This time, people are wanting to get out more because of being cooped up in their houses for the majority of the year. Still, due to infrequent flights, most of our guests are from north India itself, specifically Delhi and Punjab. We do not have many guests from south India yet,” Vikas said.
When asked about the situation in Manali, Vikas said that it doesn’t seem like there is a pandemic. Everything has been reopened, and things are normal, with no coronavirus cases in the area. He says it might be due to the fact that people living in the mountainous areas have a stronger immunity.
So with no cases and everything looking like normal, the igloo stay is an ideal vacation spot!
Preparations for this season
The Manali igloo hotel is managed by six people, who prepare the food, guide the tourists and also help them during adventure activities. In case of rush during the day time due to the influx of day tourists, they reach out to local boys from the village for help in return for some payment.
“Instead of relying on already trained personnel from other areas, we decided to train local villagers in such activities so that they have some mode of earning and we also have help when needed. Our aim was to generate employment opportunities for the people of our village. We have been continuing to train them, so that when tourists need help, they know what to do,” Vikas said.
Apart from ensuring that they have trained personnel at hand whenever needed, before setting up the igloos, they need to clean the entire patch of the barren land which they lease for the season. For the remaining portion of the year, the land is used as a grazing spot for cattle, so come winter, the place is full of bushes as well as cow dung. If left uncleaned, the grass, fallen branches and cow dung would pose a problem once the snow falls as they could cause obstructions or hurt tourists.
Thus, before the snowfall, Vikas and his team get to work cleaning the land and making it completely even for the season. They also need to repair the water connection at the campsite for the hotel, in case it got damaged during the off-season. Apart from that, cylinders for the igloo site have to be arranged so that food and beverages can be prepared there in their make-shift kitchen.