Everybody is going to Kasol nowadays, some for the sheer allure of the hills and some for a certain kind of plant that cannot be discussed openly. I have also noticed that while I have put a lot of hard work into exploring and documenting many lesser known places, most of my readers are only interested in this region and more specifically in that plant endorsed by those who worship the King of Ethiopia. Analytics also tells me that the posts about the trails surrounding Kasol, i.e. Malana, Rashol, and Kheerganga are drawing maximum organic search traffic. So, to shamelessly cash in on this trend, here is a comprehensive Kasol Travel Guide.
Where and What Exactly Is Parvati Valley?
Before getting into too much details, just understand the basic geography of the region. I have no cartographical skills whatsoever. But this map made using MS Paint should give you a basic idea about the order of things.
Delhi to Bhunter 490 Kms
Bhunter to Jari 23 Kms
Jari to Kasol 8 Kms
Kasol to Manikaran 3 Kms
Manikaran to Barshaini 14 Kms
2-3 KMs from Barshaini. Shared cars available. Can eb expensive if you take teh car alone.
Pulga and Kalga brief hike from Barshaini
So, Parvati Valley is a nice little lower Himalayan valley in the Kullu District that can be reached through a small diversion from the highway leading to Manali. On the other side, it connects to Spiti through the Pin Parvati Pass and it is also adjacent to the Great Himalayan National Park. However, those are major treks that take several days, supplies, porters, and guides for experienced trekkers and are beyond the scope of this guide. The central point of the valley is Kasol, which has become a reasonably big town due to high tourist influx. Easy accessibility from the plains, especially from Delhi and Chandigarh, good tourist infrastructure, and the lure of the aforementioned plant has made this place highly popular among the millennial travellers including disillusioned students and tortured white collar hippies. So, in case somebody suggests this region as an offbeat destination, please take it with a pinch of salt. It was probably offbeat 20 years ago when Indian travellers knew nothing beyond Manali and Shimla. It doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy it but just don’t expect the extreme desolation and serenity associated with a really offbeat place.
Transport around Parvati Valley
It is pretty easy to reach. Take the Manali bound bus but get down at Bhunter, which is around 10 kms before Kullu and it also has the airport that serves this region. From there you get local connecting buses to Kasol which is around 30 kms away. Buses on this route go all the way to Barsheini but we’ll come to it later. From Bhunter Kasol bound buses leave on regular intervals throughout the day. I have even seen a bus to Malana (to the point where the trek starts) but not sure how frequent it is. Within the valley, you will get local buses and shared cars wherever tehre is a road. After that, you will have to trek. We will discuss the treks in a later section.
Where to Stay
Like most other places in the Indian Himalayas, you get small budget hotels here in the range of INR 300-500. However, Kasol is becoming too popular now and during the summer season, it gets too crowded. As a result, the hotel owners tend to hike the prices and you will struggle to find rooms lower than 1000. However, there is no need to get frustrated at all because much cheaper yet delightful homestays are available in the inner villages. In fact, at the end of every major trek, you will find very budget friendly accommodation waiting. For example, I stayed for several days in Kalga village, en route to Kheerganga. The room at the local farmer’s homestay cost INR 150 per day and was big enough to accommodate three people.
What are the main places and treks to visit in Parvati Valley?
Kasol has been mentioned already. It has grown to be a town now with a huge population of Israeli settlers. I am actually no longer very fond of it. But if you are more fond of luxury then you will probably like it. You can also enjoy various exotic cuisines here at much lower costs compared to the big cities. You read my full Kasol Travelogue here.
Manikaran is just ahead of Kasol on the same road. You can even walk to it. It is a major Sikh as well as Hindu pilgrim center with a natural hot water spring where you can take bath. Check the Manikaran travelogue here.
Chalal is a small village that you reach just by crossing the hanging bridge from Kasol. It is a straight walk rather than a trek but the views are delightful. Scores of hotels, homestays, and sites for those rave parties are located in this area. Here is my detailed write-up on Chalal.
Tosh is another small village that has benefitted from the tourism boom. It is 2-3 KMs after Barshaini, the last road head. There are shared cars that can take you to the village for a few hundred rupees. The best way here is to share with other people and save money. There are many restaurants and homestays. But overall, I found it to be too crowded, squalid, and overpriced. I don’t even feel like writing about it. Instead, you can have a look at this Tosh story by Shubham Mansingka. From Tosh, you can hike for an hour to reach Kutla, a more peaceful palce apparently but I have not visited it.
Malana is a famous village not only due to its “agricultural products” but also due to its eccentric social rules and restrictions which have given rise to various myths and rumours about their origins. It is best approached from Jari (see map). Read my Malana travelogue for more. As of summer 2017, stay of tourists has been banned in Malana. You can visit but cannot stay. The homestays out there have been closed down. Check my post on Malana Tourist Ban to understand the issue.
From Malana one can trek further to two nearby meadows called Mozik Valley (or Magic Valley) and Waichin Valley. There are facilities for camping in Waichin Valley. I have not done it but I met a guy in Malana who told me that he provides such camping accommodation in Waichin valley. It sounded a bit expensive though. They seem to charge around INR 1000 for camping plus food.
Rashol is another high altitude village. The trek starts at aforementioned Chalal. Here is my post on Rashol trek.
Grahan is another small village trek from Kasol and another place where you can stay. It is around 10 KMs from Kasol. A moderate trek and you can find accommodation in the village at INR 200-400. Phone network doesn’t work in the village except for BSNL. You can read my Grahan post here.
Kheerganga is the most famous trek in the region. It is longer than the ones mentioned above but yet possible to complete in one day. The trek starts after Barshaini. You can make a night halt in the small villages such as aforementioned Kalga and nearby Pulga. However, Khreeganga has also become too popular and as a result too crowded, especially in the summers. Off season trek may be more rewarding.
Anyway, here are the details of my disappointments at Kheerganga.
However, you can also do the trek through Bunbuni Pass, which is steeper, tougher, more adventurous and less crowded.
But you can still enjoy a good stay at either Kalga, Pulga, or Tulga villages. I haved linked to Kalga already. Here is a link to my Pulga Travelogue.
Do note that you are likely to find more food and cheap accommodation at the end of all these treks including Kheerganga. So, can choose to spend the night or come back the same day.
What are the longer treks possible in Parvati Valley
Many great trek routes go through Parvati Valley. As mentioned before, these are multi-day treks that require guides, and supplies. I have yet to try these ones but let me list them out for everyone’s convenience.
Pin Parvati Pass Trek (via Kheerganga and Mantalai)
Chandrakhani Pass Trek (Malana to Naggar)
Sar Pass Trek (Starts from Grahan Village)
Sara Umga Pass Trek (Starts from Tosh)
Leave a comment if I have missed out something.
Good time to visit Parvati Valley?
The valley is accessible throughout the year. The big, multi-day, treks will not be possible in the winter but the rest of the valley should not be a problem. Views and colours change according to season. My personal favorite is the spring (March-April) when the apricots bloom.
What about the thing that must not be named?
The good thing about it is that it normally comes to you rather than you having to look for it. According to my research, whenever you go out of your hotel room, every hour on an average 4.20 people will offer to sell it to you. However, the price and quality are uneven and even I am no expert in the same. In case you are a still a newbie, here is an excellent stoner’s guide in India that should help you learn the right terms and more.