Foreign Tourists Mysteriously Disappear in Kullu Valley- Unsolved Mystery

Kullu Valley

The picturesque Kullu valley in the Himalayas, also known as the valley of gods, attracts thousands of backpackers from abroad. But some never return home — they simply vanish without a trace. The cases of missing tourists have been shrouded in mystery because most of them are unresolved.

On July 21, Israeli-American backpacker Amichai Shtainmetz went missing while trekking in the Kullu valley. He is the 19th foreign tourist to have gone missing in the valley since 1992.

Amichai had gone trekking with his friend but took a different route on the way back – and hasn’t been seen since. His father Jacob Shtainmetz has hired a private rescue team to locate his son but to no avail so far.

Amichai is not an isolated case of disappearance of a foreigner. He is among 19 foreign tourists who have gone missing in the Kullu valley in the past 17 years.

“Only one Australian tourist Burfitt Jacqueline Louise, who was reported missing in June 1993, has been traced so far.” The missing tourists include three Israelis, two Swiss, three Australians, two Americans and a Briton, a Canadian and a Russian.


So what happened to these people?

There are three possibilities:-

The first is that they died in an accident. The hills around Kullu are gorgeous, but they are also rugged, cold and inhospitable and no place for an inexperienced or ill-equipped trekker. Some are killed due to high-altitude sickness or slip off icy tracks or are marooned by blizzards.

A Swedish woman’s frozen body was found on a glacier in Lahaul and Spiti district in 2004, almost 25 years after she went missing in the region.

The second possibility is that the missing were robbed and killed by local people and their bodies are buried in forests or thrown in streams. Lonely hikers carrying expensive watches, cameras and other accessories become easy prey to unemployed youth.

In July 2000, two Austrian trekkers were attacked as they camped near Manikaran. One was shot dead, the other escaped. In December 2001 a skeleton was found near Malana and identified as a missing Israeli pilot Nadav Mintzer.

The third possibility is that the missing are alive and do not want to be found.

Many of the foreign tourists, when they came here, they have also stayed back. Some of them married here. They are also engaged in various social activities and social causes. But this can’t also be denied that some of them have been engaging themselves in drug trade because some of them have been nabbed with narcotics.


It is believed that it is the streak of adventure, for backpacking in the rough terrains of Himalayas that can sometimes put the tourists in danger.

“Many foreigners, who get some kind of army training, they think that they can handle going alone in the Himalayas. But there are inherent problems with frequent change of weather, animal attacks, hostility of the terrain, and remoteness for communication. All these factors can contribute to people getting seriously in a dangerous way in nature. There are also some people go missing because they want to go missing.

In the summer, thousands of backpackers descend on the valley. Some do serious trekking, while others roam aimlessly from village to village. They participate in ‘full moon’ rave parties and indulge in drugs. This is one of the reasons for their mysterious deaths and disappearances.


Almost 50,000 foreign tourists visit Kullu every year, with a huge percentage of Israelis out of them. It is believed that they come mostly in search of cheap hashish, which can land them into trouble. But some tourists think otherwise.

“A lot of Israelis, they think, that they come here to smoke drugs or take different things,” said Ellan, an Israeli tourist.

Apart from the Himalayan setting, any backpackers delight, the lure for most of the tourists is also cheap and quality cannabis, found in abundance in the valley. Sources say that a large number of foreigners who disappeared mysteriously are illegally staying in various tribal areas.

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The Untold Story Malana – India’s Cannabis Country

Malana is an ancient village to the north-east of Kullu Valley. This solitary village in the Malana Nala, a side valley of the Parvati Valley, is isolated from the rest of the world. At an altitude of 9,938 feet above sea level lies the village of Malana also known as the village of Taboos. This village in the state of Himachal Pradesh is a magical green rimmed village that overlooks the Deotiba and Chandrakhani Peaks. Malana village is connected to Kulu by three mountain passes. Once in the state of Himachal Pradesh it can be reached from Parvati valley across the Rashol Pass and Chanderkhani pass. The easiest way to reach Malana is from Jari by hiring a taxi since no public buses ply to the village of Malana, which is 23 km away.

photo10The village of Malana is considered as one of the oldest democracies in the world. It is also known by the drug mafia for its hash which is extracted from the Cannabis plant and travels the world which is also the main source of income for the Malanese.

If one decide to visit this village of Taboos it is advisable to not touch the walls or belongings of any of the Malanese people as you will have to pay a fine if you touch anything. ‘Kanashi’ is the local language of Malana and does not sound like any of the dialects spoken in its neighboring villages and the language is also considered to be one of the secrets of the village that outsiders from other villages are not allowed to use.


Malana has a history and it goes back to Jamlu rishi (sage) who inhabited this place and made rules and regulations. It is one of the oldest democracies of the world with a well organized parliamentary system. All of this is guided by the their devta (deity) Jamlu rishi. Although Jamlu is currently identified with a sage from the Puranas, this is a relatively recent development. Jamlu is believed to have been worshiped in pre-Aryan times.

Malana also known as the village of Taboos
Malana also known as the village of Taboos

Malana is considered to be one of the first democracies in the world. According to tradition, the residents of Malana are the descendant of Aryans, and they acquired their independence during the Mughal reign when the Emperor Akbar walked to the village in order to cure an ailment that he was afflicted with; after having been successfully cured he put out an edict stating that all the inhabitants of the valley would never be required to pay tax. An alternative tradition suggests that Malana was founded by remnants of Alexander the Great’s Army.

Malana’s Crème

Malana’s crème has a notorious legacy in international stoner culture. It has won the Best Hashish title twice, in 1994 and 1996, at High Times magazine’s Cannabis Cup. Marijuanaphiles the world over have since made this region a popular weed-tourist destination, branded in travel and ganja-hunting literature as the exotic and alluring “Malana and the Magic Valley.” It was inevitable that the farmers would start to realize the global potential of their plants—and that the cops would take any and all measures to prevent these rural agriculturalists from increasing production. The most effective tool in authorities’ arsenal is satellite technology, but the farmers have found a workaround.


Since the mid-nineties dozens of tourists have gone missing in the valley, many have turned up dead, many haven’t turned up at all. Stories of tourists heading to the valley, then getting murdered are all too common. Bodies get washed up on river banks and in various decomposing states have also been found in the mountains. No one speaks about it and the police struggle to solve any of these cases, often finding it difficult to even pick up any leads. Travel within the valley alone (without a guide) is dangerous and has been proven to be deadly all too regularly. Locals are reluctant to speak, and a few years ago the Guardian (UK) sent reporters to find out why people were going missing without any real sense of investigation. Locals shut them out, they were spat at and even foreigners seemed annoyed and hostile of their presence. What they uncovered was something of conspiracy theories, something they could never envisage and something that when first warned by the local paper they dismissed as ridiculous. They were told by a local paper that actually, those foreigners who had been found dead may have crossed the wrong people. The drugs trade is rife in the mountains, and a survivor who saw his 14 year old son and female companion slaughtered was testament to the fact that there were robberies in the valley.

Malana Village
Malana Village

Malanis (the inhabitants of Malana) admire their culture, customs and religious beliefs. They generally do not like to change though some traces of modernization are visible. People in Malana consider all non-Malani to be inferior and consequently untouchable. Visitors to Malana town must pay particular attention to stick to the prescribed paths and not to touch any of the walls, houses or people there. If this does occur, visitors are expected to pay a forfeit sum, that will cover the sacrificial slaughter of a lamb in order purify the object that has been made impure. Malani people may touch impure people or houses as long as they follow the prescribed purification ritual before they enter their house or before they eat. Malanis may never accept food cooked by a non-Malani person, unless they are out of the valley (in which case their Devt can’t see them). Malanis may offer visitors food but all utensils will have to undergo a strict purification ritual before they can be used again.

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