Sometimes you want to just get away from the city life and lose yourself in a trance. Walk with no destination in mind and chance upon a hidden village. Sit in surroundings so beautiful that you lose yourself and end up watching the sun rise and set from the same spot. Drink from fresh water streams and party with the people from some untouched villages in their style.
Driven by these thoughts, we chanced upon Kasol while going through another blog for the wanderers. Little could we control ourselves, and in a jiffy, 11 of us just packed whatever we could find and headed towards this beautiful and magnificent Parvati Valley (in Himachal Pradesh) in a bid to explore Kasol and the nearby towns.
There are ample buses available from ‘Majnu ka Tila‘ which, in moderate traffic, is 30 minutes away from Kashmere gate (nearest metro station). That’s likely to cost you INR 60-70 in Auto fare. The buses from Majnu ka Tila ply from 4 PM to 9 PM in the evening. These buses go straight to Kullu-Manali. Very comfortable AC and Private Volvo busses are also available. Off-season rates were INR 600 per seat. If you are heading to Kasol, remind the conductor to drop you off at Bhuntar and stay up to make sure you don’t miss your stop.
We took the 6:30 PM bus from Majnu ka Tila and the bus halted twice on the way. A long stop for dinner somewhere in Punjab and another one at Mandi for late night tea. Our bus reached Bhuntar around 6:45 AM. The bus dropped us off right outside the local bus stand.
There is only one ATM in Kasol which is out of cash or dysfunctional many times. There are 2-3 ATMs in Bhuntar, so if you don’t have enough cash for the trip already now is the time to withdraw. If you miss it by chance, you can get cash by swiping your card at the Currency Exchange Booth in Kasol by paying 5% surcharge.
The local bus for Kasol leaves after 7 AM. While we were waiting we decided to withdraw some cash from the ATM and add more layers of woollens since it was freezing outside. Bhuntar onwards you will be travelling in local busses only so equip yourself with enough layers of woollens, socks, cap and gloves. For, if you are doing an off season trip too, you will need all these and more. We saw a small chai and Maggi shop at the local bus stand and had our first meal in the mountains. Once you have boarded the bus, it’s a good idea to sit on the left to be able to see the valley properly.
Bus ticket – INR 45/seat, Taxi also available for INR 900 (accommodates 6).
The bus takes another two hours to reach Kasol and this bus ride gives you your first view of the valley. The chill in the breeze, the sharp turns of the road and the beautiful sight of the river and the snow capped mountains tell you what you are in store for the next few days.
We reached Kasol at 9:30 AM and right where the bus dropped us a beautiful mountain dog greeted us and led us to Cafe Rainbow. It was a homestay with an apt location, right next to the bus stand, the river flowed behind and it was the starting point for treks like Rashol and Manikaran. While we stayed at Cafe Rainbow there are lots of other comfortable guest houses, hotels and homestay options also available.
Also, if you have forgotten your trekking gear, shoes, backpack or woollens you can get all these things from Kasol. Options for both rent and purchase are available.
Places to eat in Kasol: Shiv café, Evergreen Cafe, Bhoj, German Bakery, Little Italy, Maria café
After accepting the traditional welcome of Kasol (if you know what i mean 😉) , hogging on countless numbers of gobhi cheese parathas and bread omelette, and putting on yet another layer of woollens we left for Barshani. Barshani is the base for treks like Kheerganga, Kalga, Pulga and the base from where you can either walk the road or take a taxi to Tosh. It took us 90 minutes to reach there and we found out that it was not possible to go for kheerganga trek due to heavy snow. Hence, we explored Kalga, pulga for couple of hours, walking in the snow with mountain dogs, following trails left by locals and then took the taxi to Tosh which cost us INR 50 per seat.
Tosh was another story altogether. To reach the village we had to cross a stream and walk into the snow clad wonderland of India. A small village, with just 150 – 200 houses but the view from the place was breathtaking.
Since we went in off-season we didn’t find many tourists but there were a lot of homestay options available. We checked out several options and decided to stay in Sunrise Guesthouse where we paid INR 100/Person/night for a group of 11 people. The attendant there, Rahul, was very helpful and an amazing cook. He served us with some amazing pizzas, pancakes, paranthas and coffee. And later that night he hooked speakers and disco lights for us in a quiet village and we partied under the stars well into the wee hours of the night.
Next day, we left early morning for Barshani from where we took the bus to Manikaran to head to the Gurudwara. There are some beautiful Shiv temples here, natural hot springs and baths made for both men and women where one can take the holy dip. Of course the main attraction is the Gurudwara, and we decided to have lunch in the langar.
We decided to walk back to Kasol that day and walked across the river from the road into the forest and mountains. This trail was extremely beautiful, right by the side of the river, and in the middle of lush green trees and flower beds. We walked down to the river after a while and spent sometime there and then headed back to the room around 6:30 PM.
If you walk from Kasol towards Manikaran, you will see the board of Jim Morrison café on the right. It’s a cozy place built around 800m up trek. This place had a sigri, amazing ambience, great music and 5 cutest puppies. We stayed there until 10 PM and the walk back to our rooms was like a night trek in the wild.
Malana, and its greek descendents
Next day in the morning we took the roadways bus to Jari which was around 30 – 45 minutes away. From there we took a taxi for Malana, the lesser known village of arguably the Greek descendants. The ride is around an hour long and where the jeep drops you off it’s another 2 hours of long trek to the village. This trek is slightly steep, and was slippery because of the snow but the surroundings just made it worthwhile.
Once you reach the village nestled in the middle of mountains you are greeted with the rules of the land. No outsider is supposed to touch the residents or the houses or enter any of the houses. In case one does that, he has to pay a fine of INR 25,000 and the locals are quite serious about this. But this doesn’t mean they are not friendly. There are a couple of guest houses located beyond the village and one right at the beginning. And if you fancy some tea, maggi or paranthas you can find some tasty treats in the village itself. They won’t be handed to you but just put on a chair where you can pick it from, you know because of the no contact thing, but this is an experience in itself.
We started our trek back late afternoon, back to the car and the the driver dropped us back to Bhuntar directly, just in time for our evening bus. We headed back for Delhi at around 8:30 PM and by 6:30 AM we were back to the hustle bustle of the city.
Here are two other contacts which may come useful:
– Taxi, Barshani – 08894494428
– Bus, Vishal – 09882624000 (for bus to-and-fro Delhi to Bhuntar)
We did this trip in January 2015 and the total cost of the trip was approx. INR 3000 per person for 3 days including travel, stay and food. You can cover all the spots as described here if you leave on a Thursday evening and plan to reach back by Monday morning.
Best months to visit : March – June ; October – November
Credits: Thanks Priyanka Agarwal for making this trip happen. And Akshay Maggu and Rupayan Banerjee for these brilliant photos I could use. Have uploaded most of their pictures in this flickr album to give you a thorough idea of how a trip to Parvati Valley may be like.
Planning a trip to Parvati Valley?
For your convenience, we have embedded some useful contact details in QR codes above. Just point your mobile’s camera (after opening a QR code scanner) at the code to save the details. Most mobiles have this application built in.
In an attempt to make the planning process easier for you, we have made a super-handy cheat sheet which you can use as a PDF reference or take a printout for your journey. Download it here.
If you have already been here or to other similar places, share your experiences or engage in a conversation below. (Alternatively, here’s a link to the discussion on our facebook page)
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