Q: What is the nature of this excursion?
A: This excursion is a spiritual pilgrimage to the Himachal Pradesh Himalayas and includes travel to Dharamshala, Mandi, and Manali. This region of the Himalayas has a rich spiritual and cultural history and is home to the goddesses Chamunda, Vajreshwari, Chintapurni, Jwalamukhi, and Tripura Sundari and great masters Vashistha, Lomas, Markandaya, Vyasa, and Parashurama.
Q: What is the duration of this pilgrimage?
A: The pilgrimage is 11 days and 12 nights.
Q: What are the main locations we will be visiting?
A: On this pilgrimage we will spend 3 nights in Dharamshala, 2 nights in Mandi, 1 night camping at Prashar Lake and 5 nights in Manali. From these locations we will travel to different points of interest and shrines including those dedicated to Chamunda Devi, Vajeshwari, Jwalamukhi, Lomas Rishi, Raghunath, Hidimba, Manu, Jamdagini, Vashistha, and Tripura Sundari.
Q: How much walking will be required? What is the difficulty level?
A: Hikes will range from easy to moderate difficulty. The longest trek will be approximately 5—6 hours to reach Prashar Lake. Other hikes will average 1—2 hours. Additionally, there will be short walks required to reach other key shrines.
Q: How can I prepare for this pilgrimage?
A: Physical fitness and overall good health are important elements for a spiritual excursion like this. If you haven’t already, we suggest that you begin a regular practice for conditioning your body. Aerobic exercise is especially helpful to prepare for trekking and high altitudes. One method is fast walking, building up to a steady pace on inclines, hilly terrain, or stairs, and increasing distance. *
The yogic breathing techniques (pranayama) of kapalabhati, bhastrika, and nadi shodhanam (alternate nostril breathing) are also good preparation, as is the practice of agni sara to energize the solar plexus and help sustain vitality. These practices are best done regularly, starting with a few repetitions and progressing gradually according to your capacity. If you don’t know these techniques, we recommend that you take a pranayama or hatha yoga class with a qualified instructor. Himalayan Institute Wisdom Library provides instructional articles and videos on some of these techniques, including contraindications, as do the books Path of Fire and Light, Vol. 1, by Swami Rama, and Science of Breath, by Swami Rama, Rudolph Ballentine, MD, and Alan Hymes, MD. These can be ordered through Himalayan Institute Press at 800-822- 4547, press 4, or online.
Q: What will the weather be like in early to mid-March in Dharamshala, Mandi, and Manali?
A: Weather and temperatures can change suddenly in the mountains. We will primarily be in the mid-elevations, which are less extreme in terms of weather conditions. Generally, in March, the days are sunny with daytime temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to low-70s (14°C–22°C), and evenings ranging from the low-40s to high-50s (6°C–14°C). Be prepared for a full range of temperatures and conditions, particularly when trekking to higher elevations and when camping.
Q: What is the highest altitude on the pilgrimage?
A: The highest altitude we will reach is 9,000ft at Prashar Lake.
*Consult with your physician before beginning this or any exercise program. If you experience any unusual discomfort, discontinue exercise and consult with your physician.