If you are an 80s or a 90s kid, I am sure you must have seen ample disney cartoons and read alluring fairy tales and wondered if such places shown as “Enchanting woods” even exist! Well, the answer would be Parvati Valley! From Lush green Mountains to a distant view of huge snow capped peaks. From beautiful trekking paths to the most heavenly camping sites. From mesmerizing Dancing clouds to an enticing Parvati river. From ridiculously beautiful small villages to food that gives your taste buds an orgasm. Be it a sunrise, the sunset, night sky or a chilly drizzle. Be it the wind, the bonfire, the small cafes or the music. Everything about this part of Himalayas is Sheer Magic!!
Location and Access:
Lying in the lap of Himalayas, Parvati valley is a paradise of nature stretching from Bhuntar, Kullu to Spiti valley. It can be accessed through Bhuntar in Kullu district from where you can easily get a Cab or Bus which connects with Kasol for 50 bucks and Barsheni for 75 bucks. Cabs are a little overpriced in this stretch. There’s an easy access to Bhuntar via Volvo and Buses from Delhi, Chandigarh and rest of Himachal. It also is home to the Kullu airport. If you are a hardcore trekker, you can also have an access to the Valley through the Pin Parvati Pass connected with Spiti Valley.
Brief about the Fairytale Land:
Once you leave from Bhuntar towards Parvati, you will start disconnecting with the rest of the world on your own. (Don’t worry, The network will be there.) The friendly locals speak good Hindi, English and some even speak Hebrew and welcome you with an open heart. Locals here are self sufficient and mostly have farms or make woolen clothes for their living. People from different parts of the country and world keep coming here for long sabbaticals and become one of the locals, they engage in creative stuff like Jewelry making, Knitting dreamcatchers, Painting, Cooking at Cafes etc for their living there.
Parvati Valley is pretty full with Stoners (People who are high on Hashish/weed and some forms of drugs), Trekkers and Backpackers (It has numerous beautiful trekking trails.) But that’s not all. It has a gift for every visitor. Recently its gaining popularity among solo travelers as its pretty safer and cheap. It touches your soul!
As my first solo trip, I chose to romance with nature at Parvati Valley.
Day 0: Reached Delhi in the Evening and directly took a cab to Kashmiri gate ISBT where I had my bus till Bhuntar. Boarded the bus and the journey with unseen avenues begins!
Day 1: Waking up to a little sunlight peeping through the bus window is the best way to get up. Reached Bhuntar and took a bus till Kasol which after a breathtaking picturesque journey dropped me at Kasol Chowk around 10 AM. Through a Facebook update, I found out that a friend of mine was in Kasol and decided to join him. We walked till Chalal as our camp was there. Unwinding, relaxing a little and getting fresh we again left for Kasol and spent an Amazing time in the awe of nature. After long walks and exploration, satisfied the hunger with yummy delicacies from good eats at Kasol. Listening to a random band playing amazing music was an icing on the cake. After a little shopping at the local joints, we headed back to Chalal by late evening. Amazing conversations and unlimited travel stories around the bonfire with strangers by the side of Parvati river. What else can one ask for! Also we came across an engineer storyteller gypsy guy from Delhi, popularly known as “Mowgli Baba”, who now paints and does basic chores as a living at different parts of Parvati valley.
Day 2: Before I could absorb the magic of an amazing day at Kasol, the next day began, after a sumptuous breakfast and dancing to the tunes of “Atrangi Yaari” We left the campsite at Chalal and back to Kasol. A little more exploration and decided to hire a cab till Tosh. Enroute stopping at Manikaran Gurudwara for a quick darshan and amazing burgers from “Bittoo bhaiya”, we headed for Tosh, a short conversation with a sherpa taking his mountain goats downhill was good enough to enlighten the moods. The ever changing views will give you wandergasm! After every 5 minutes I wanted to stop the cab and click pictures (which ofcourse wasn’t possible). The cab took us till Tosh village. and a very small walk led us into the village. We walked uphill till Pinky di’s guest house and were smitten at the view from there. My friends left for Kheerganga trek and all I had was my soltitude and this spell bounding valley! After both food for stomach and soul, I went for a walk around the village. A stunning little hamlet this village is! I wished I had more time to spend here. Trying my hands on some more cafes around and some chit chats with locals and peddlers, I headed back to my guest house. Enjoying the night sky with dinner and a nice chat with the friendly Pinky di and her business, I decided to end my day. Honestly, the night was a little spooky. A secluded guest house with nothing but trees around and some groups of stoners listening to Badshaah songs, it was pitch dark outside and I was reminded of all the horror films i had seen in recent past. “Hanuman chalisa” and my bestie to the rescue, I somehow slept and woke up just in time for sunrise!
Day 3: Witnessing the most beautiful sunrise of life (maybe cuz i was glad I was alive ;p) I began my day with another small walk around the village. I was supposed to stay at Pulga tonight as there would be a psy party but it was cancelled which means there would hardly be any people and after last night at Tosh I wasn’t pretty comfortable about spending a night at a secluded village alone. I decided to reach Manali as I had plans further ahead from the next day. Luckily the people with whom I was sharing a cab till Barsheni were going till Kalga and I decided to tag along. The cabby was a sweetheart and he took us to highest possible point from where I had to hike till Kalga. on reaching the village my heart skipped a beat. I wanted to stay there for like forever. Beauty in the most Raw form! I had plans further ahead, else would have definitely stayed a day or two here. Chilled at a beautiful cafe as i breathed in some nature and quenched the thirst for my soul. Left with a heavy heart and my cabbie took me down to Barsheni where I got a bus till Kasol. collecting my backpack from Kasol, I bid adieu to this magical land for the time being and off to Bhuntar-Manali.
Parvati Valley isn’t just about smoking up or eating at the cafes. Neither is it about the treks for adventurist. Its about falling in love.. with your own soul. With nature.. With the being that we are! It quenches the thirst of your soul and satisfies the hunger of your stomach and heart! You may or may not meet amazing people. You may or may not discover yourself. But you will discover inner peace here. And Parvati valley isnt the place which remains etched in your memories and you make plans to visit here again atleast once in life. It becomes the home to your wandering soul which beautifully haunts you! And you are enticed and thrive to return to this land again and again!!
A little about the Places!
(Hover over the Village name to go to Google map location)
A town which acts as a junction to link the mesmerizing Parvati Valley with the rest of the world! There’s an easy access to Bhuntar via Volvo and Buses from Delhi, Chandigarh and rest of Himachal. It also is home to the Kullu airport. You can get HRTC Busses and Taxis from here to Barsheni, Kasol, Manikaran and other parts of the valley. It takes a little less than 2 hours for a bus journey from Bhuntar to Kasol for a charge of 50 bucks! The journey is beautiful.. The Busses have the good old hindi songs of 90s playing, and the scenic transformation as you move deeper into the valley is enchanting! (The taxis charge a staggering 900 bucks for a small journey of over 30 kms from Bhuntar to Kasol.. You can skip this and use the bus as the service is pretty decent.) If you land at Bhuntar in the morning, you might just get lucky to find exceptionally cute school kids walking around in groups, who would smile and wave at you and are always game for pictures and selfies. What cud be a better way to begin the adventure!
Does the name not give you a slight chill or goosebumps? Aren’t you smiling already? Can you feel a little wind just brushing away your hair and hear the sound of the amazing water streams!! If not.. means you haven’t been here yet, and trust me when I say this, you are missing out on something major! Kasol, also known as Mini Israel, is a rather “commercialized” town in Parvati Valley which still doesn’t fail to imbibe you within itself. The Beautiful Parvati river and the never ending hills and trees will make you smitten by its beauty. Popularly known for being a stoners paradise, Kasol is more like a home for all wandering souls. You be a Trekker, Stoner, Lazy ass like me, Traveler, Photographer, Camper or a Travelist, Kasol welcomes you with open arms and pampers you. It will spoil you so much that you would start planning your next trip here already! If its your first time here, you might be awe struck at the open business of Cannabis and the chilled out stoners caring the least about this! If you are a foodie, welcome to paradise! This place has some amazing cafes serving yumm Italian and Israeli food! Also for the gypsy shoppers, you have some amazing shops around Kasol chowk which you should explore! Must Visit: Buddha Place, the Evergreen cafe, Shiv shanti Cafe, Moon Dance Cafe and Jim Morrison Cafe. Must Do: Explore the town, attend a rave, camp by Parvati and play Volleyball with the Israeli Hotties :p
Chalal is a small village, at a pleasant walk distance from Kasol. It takes around 45 minutes from Kasol to Chalal and is a Party capital of that zone. Many raves and psy parties take place here during season. It is also a more favored spot to stay because of its closeness to Kasol yet being much peaceful and secluded. The only way to reach chalal is on foot after crossing a beautiful suspension bridge over Parvati river. The main source of earning here be either Hashish, or the women making shawls and other winter clothes. Such friendly and welcoming villagers! You might be awed to see the hospitality, they make you feel at home like you belong there! If you are at Kasol, you must visit here, and if you are looking for peace. spend a night or two at a camp here. Must Visit: Om shanti Cafe, Alpine, Evergreen Bhojnalay, Cafe 9. Must Do: Nothing. Jus sit and be in awe!
A few KMs from Kasol on the way to Barsheni lies this township Manikaran. It has basically evolved because of the famous Gurudwara and hot springs. It is more of a pilgrim place and is worth a visit; you might just satisfy your hunger here by taking food at the divine langar. The Hot springs though have been made into “washrooms” which isn’t really a happy sight! There’s a small food stall on the main roads opposite the bus stop, run by “Bitto” which serves the most amazing burgers you have ever had! Be it tea, coffee, maggi, Tikki Chat.. Bittoo bhaiya ki dukaan is a must halt when here or even crossing Manikaran. Must Visit: Gurudwara sahib, Shivji Temple. Must Do: Eat burgers at “Bittoo ki Dukaan”
Barsheni again is a small junction village which links us to villages like Tosh, Kalga andPulga. This is basically a bus stop village. You will easily get an HRTC bus here which links you to Kasol, Manikaran and Bhuntar. Also you can get taxis till here but they will lootofy your pockets! You can trek up to any of these villages from here. Also it acts as the base point for the kheerganga trek. You may also get some amazingly home baked Hash cookies here!! 😉
A small hamlet of enchantment nestled in the Himalayas, Tosh is a wizardry of beauty!! You will be spell bound by the nature around and the way the locals live in harmony with nature! A little commercialized for the beauty, yet it will awe you. Surrounded by lush green mountains all around, a deep hidden valley which is like a secret spot to grow cannabis. You can spot mesmerizing snow clad mountains and clouds dancing around and seducing them. I find this place magical; a few steps and a small wooden bridge which leads you to the village, makes you feel like you are entering a gummy bear land. Apple trees are in abundance here and the locals treat you like one of their own. Seeing small mules carrying load with their masters is a frequent sight. You would want to unwind here in silence as time passes by blankly gazing at the mountains! The night sky here is something to die for! The food, like Kasol is brilliant here! A small afternoon walk of the village is a must. The only turn off was a few groups of Rowdy drunk guys listening to Badshaah and Honey Singh on full volume! Must Visit: The Last Resort, Cafe 360, Pink Floyd Cafe, Shanti Cafe. Must do: Go for treks if you can, take a village tour. Eat green apples plucking them from trees.
Now this is one place where you would go like “OMG! Does it even exist? Or am I high on something?! Looks like a wonderland to me.“; Very remote and much less commercialized, Kalga happened to me by chance, and I am lucky enough it did! If you are looking for some random conversations and activities, Kalga just isn’t the place for you. Its more like the place you would switch off your regular life for a while and keep it at a standstill! Hiking up the beautiful trail to reach Kalga, a lazy person like me would want to give up, but once you reach the village you realize why its worth it! Be stunned at nature. Chill at the less crowded beautiful cafes and reflect on your life while sipping hot coffee! The perfect treat for a wandering travel hungry soul! You can trek up from the Dam near Barsheni and will take you around 45 minutes (I was lucky enough to find a cabby who not only dropped me at a much higher spot, but waited hours for me to return! making the trek considerably easier.) If you have time in hand, consider visiting Pulga as well and stay here for 2/3 days. Must Visit: Stoners Cafe, Lazy Cow cafe. (didn’t explore much) Must do. Close your eyes and breathe in the awe and let the wind romance you!