Kasar Devi: A Slice of Hippie Himachal in Kumaon

Kasar Devi (1)

Any fan of surrealistic art-forms must have seen Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel, that one where a bunch of people meet inside a mansion for a soiree but realize that they cannot leave the place even if they want to.

This is something that generally keeps happening to me. There are certain places in Delhi where I have felt this decadent energy keeping me tied to one place and away from any meaningful work. However, I have always associated the Himalayas with activity and adventure. But all that changed in Kasar Devi.

So, just to clarify the context, I have left home again. After the middling attempt at living out of the backpack during the #60daysofsummer last year, this time I was looking forward to #90daysofspringandsummer (but this hashtag looks ugly and ungainly and so I am not going to use it in the future posts). Just to kick-start the adventures, I left Delhi just as the torturous summer arrived. Kumaon was one of the areas in my mind because I’ve yet to do anything worthwhile in that region.

I reached Kasar Devi with certain plans and targets in mind. More importantly, I also secured a cost-effective room, which was essential for my long term plans. But as days passed, I realized that there is a strange placidity in the place. Of course mountains are always placid but there was something about Kasar that made me completely inactive. I thought of visiting Binsar that was just an hour away but I could never walk past the 500 meter radius around my homestay. Even reaching the temple atop the nearby hill took a lot of determination. I thought of going down to Almora too but soon resigned to clicking photographs of the pine trees and staring at the sunset like a pathetic romantic.

Yes, I have read those stories about this place falling on the Van Allen Belt but I never really believed them. But after spending a week there I am beginning to question my very ability to question things. Is it a mere coincidence that this place has always attracted hippies, philosophers, and authors but not adventurers and explorers?

Initially I was also considering Kasar Devi to be a place for long-term stay but I am no longer sure. It made me grossly unproductive and this is not going to help my cause. Anyway, after around a week, I managed to finally pack my bags and check out of my room with one herculean thrust and headed towards Himachal, the state that never disappoints. I still want to explore more of Kumaon but I think I will use a different base next time. I also thought of making quick trips to nearby places could never get going.

Since leaving Kasar Devi I have knocked down half a dozen of my wishlist items in barely a week. I will share them soon. As far as this place is concerned, I will still recommend it to those who are looking for a tranquil vacation without doing much. Accommodation here is inexpensive and food options are good. As far as the views are concerned, have a look at the photographs and decide for yourself. However, don’t expect your adrenaline to roar. All you are going to hear is Ginsberg’s Howl.

Kasar Devi (3)

Kasar Devi (2)

Kasar Devi (6)

Kasar Devi (4)

Kasar Devi (5)

Kasar Devi (8)

Kasar Devi (7)

Kasar Devi (9)

Kasar Devi (10)

 

Kasar Devi Travel Guide

Understanding Ksar Devi

Kasar Devi is more of a village that grew to be a hippie retreat. It is not a place for loud music and intense activities. It is also starkly different from other nearby tourist destinations. It is what Jibhi probably was 10 years ago. It is mostly for those who like slow travel. If you want to think, write, or simply relax, this place is ideal. It is also very affordable with nice homestays  and that is why many stay here for weeks and months (although there are luxury options too).  Kasar Devi, and the village ahead called Deenapani, and Binsar sanctuary ahead of that, should be enough to keep you occupied. I mean, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, George Harrison, etc have been here. What more can you ask for?

How to Reach Kasar Devi?

Ksar Devi is barely 20-25 minutes from Almora town on the road between Almora to Binsar. So, if you are going from Delhi, just take an overnight train to Kathgodam and then find a bus or shared car to Almora, which is around 100 KMs/3 Hrs. You will find local shared cars from Almora market to Kasar Devi. If you want to stay at a local homestay, don’t get down at the temple but go ahead for another KM and you will start seeing them.

 Where to Stay in Kasar Devi?

The cluster of affordable homestays for backpackers are located by the side of the road, around a KM ahead of the Kasar Devi Temple. Once I got a room with an attached bathroom forINR 300, although prices may have increased now. Still, there will be anough options in three digits. Just get there and ask around. Some places are also located in deep inside the jungle or downhill from the road.

A lot of expensive luxury stays have also come up in this region stretching from Ksar Devi to Binsar. Luxury isn’t my forte but let me tell you that there are scores of options.

What to see and do in Kasar Devi?

The eponymous temple is the main attraction here. As mentioned, it is more of a place where you simply relax and walk around the Crank’s Ridge. On a good day, you will have great views of the snowy peaks on the horizon, but that depends on the weather (Somehow I never got it right). There are some other interesting attractions and small hikes that you will be able to find out once you settle down out there.

Binsar is a few KMs ahead of Kasar and you can visit it easily.

Where to go from Kasar Devi?

There are scores of places in this region of lower Kumaon including more places like Almora, Nainital, Sattal, Ranikhet, Mukteshwar, Kausani, Someshwar, Bageshwar, etc. You can go further to the likes of Pithoragarh, Chaukori, Patal Bhubaneswar, Gangolihat and Munsiyari if you have time or explore more offbeat places like Champawat or Dharchula. You will also come accross the lake town of Bhimtal en route to Almora. Here is a different blog on Bhimtal that you can read. Also, you can always take a detour to the Corbett National Park & nearby areas if you are looking for a jungle adventures.

Phone and Data Connecivity in Kasar Devi?

Connectivity is generally good in Kasar and so you can stay and work in this region easily. I have been there twice. Once I stayed by the side of the road and had no issues. On the second time, I ended up at a homestaydownhill and my phone was struggling to catch netwrok. However, the INR 500 homestay had Wi-Fi.

____________

In case you have not watched Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel (1962) and looking to get it, just be careful and don’t opt for The Exterminating Angels (2006), which is a French erotic film that I once downloaded by mistake. I did enjoy it but I should not discuss that part here.

Jitaditya Narzary

Is a traveller disillusioned by the familiar and fascinated with the unknown... and of course the founder of this blog.

13 thoughts on “Kasar Devi: A Slice of Hippie Himachal in Kumaon

  • 2017/05/07 at 8:26 pm
    Permalink

    Iam a fan of mysteries. This place sounds worth checking out! Looks like the time to plan my next adventure has come.

    Reply
  • 2017/05/07 at 9:31 pm
    Permalink

    The place sounds incredible. Especially love your pics of the sunset and clouds. How good is this place for treks? Did you manage to get any trekking done?

    Reply
  • 2017/05/08 at 1:32 am
    Permalink

    Sometimes you just need to stop in a place and taken in what it gives you. If that is peace and quiet and not much to do around, we should still appreciate it. Interesting to read that Kasar Devi is a place for artists and not explorers. I wonder what stopped you exploring, reading further that after leaving the place you did manage to go back on track with your goals.

    Reply
  • 2017/05/08 at 6:49 am
    Permalink

    Very nice! Looking forward to your 90 days of spring and summer (whatever you end up hashtagging) stories. This post is just filled with interesting things I’ve never know – Exterminating Angel (??) and Kasar Devi itself. I recently visited India for the first time and I’m absolutely fascinated by everything it holds. Good luck on your journey!

    Reply
  • 2017/05/08 at 1:18 pm
    Permalink

    Sounds like you are having quite an adventure! And what a beautiful place to be, and hard to leave. I love the red and orange pagoda. And the sunsets are gorgeous.

    Reply
  • 2017/05/08 at 10:45 pm
    Permalink

    Nice to know about offbeat places that I have never heard or read about. Looks like a peaceful place to connect with nature. You seem to have an adventurous trip.

    Reply
  • 2017/05/09 at 3:22 pm
    Permalink

    I do really enjoy your writing style. The place looks amazing in the pictures, but then again I’m the kind of person who really enjoys peace and tranquility and not doing much (provided there is wifi of course). I’m only vaguely aware of the Exterminating Angel so now I will look out for it (the right version of course).

    Reply
  • 2017/05/09 at 9:26 pm
    Permalink

    Haha. Now I am interested in the Exterminating Angels. That 2006 version that is. Anyways, jokes apart, I keenly followed your 60 days of summer project last year. Kasar Devi sure is on my mind. Loved your self deprecating joke on #90daysofspringandsummer. Cheers!

    Reply
  • 2017/05/09 at 9:33 pm
    Permalink

    I love the Himalayas … so peaceful. The sunset pictures are stunning. I would love to go here but I am not sure how safe it would be for a solo woman. Let me live it through your pics!

    Reply
    • 2017/05/09 at 11:03 pm
      Permalink

      I think if you will at all be unsafe, that will be in a big metropolis rather than a tiny Himalayan village.

      Reply
  • 2018/10/25 at 6:48 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Jitaditya,

    your post really made me curious about Kasar Devi! could you please suggest me any good place to stay for couple of months at budget ? I am planning to start in a week, it would really be helpful.

    Reply
    • 2018/10/28 at 2:39 am
      Permalink

      Ask in any of the homestays. It should not be a problem. The shared cars from Almora will leave you just in front of them.

      Reply
  • 2020/07/05 at 12:47 pm
    Permalink

    Fascinating insight to Kasar Devi. I will say we stayed there for about ten days, and managed to walk to Almora, and do a trip to Jageshwar. But I know, nonetheless, what you mean by the sense of timeless disinsentive that permeates Kasar Devi. But I think this offers an opportunity to share an observation of how different nationalities travel.

    Kasar Devi offers the traveller an opportunity to step out of the world. This is an experience I find almost all Indian travellers to be totally uninterested in. Indian nationals are obsessed with cramming as much into their trips are is physically possible – and I emphasise ‘physically’. They are ‘achiever’ and bucket-list travellers. The true art of travelling is to translocate then settle for a time, absorbing the ambienct, social and cultural feelings by way of osmosis. The idea of rushing here and there, taking pictures and achieving much, is an adolescent form of travel. The real traveller is seeking to change his or her soul through the experience of being in a different place. This takes time – at least ten days or more. Getting to know the different people who live and work in the vicinity, no matter their social status.

    I should add that we had the opportunity to observe another nationality visiting Kasar Devi: Israelis. They arrived in a group, pleaded with the owner to let them stay. Next morning caused a huge uproar by refusing to pay, then we saw them at the local cafe, huddled in their own group, which expressed a distinct feeling they did not want any interaction with non-group people.

    Another comment about Indian domestic tourists. The homestay owner told us that Indian tourists resent having to walk a little way down to the homestay. They preferred to alight from their car and step straight into their rooms. He explained that Indian tourists didn’t like to walk at all. But I suspect he was referring to an older age group, as I have seen many younger Indian tourists highly keen on physical adventure.

    It just goes to show how different people respond to the door opening that travel offers. I should say that the longer stay approach was only something I learnt to relish as I grew older.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.