Parvati Valley: An Enchanting Experience.

Parvati valley, Parvati valley Himachal
Photo by Rucksack Kruemel.
by Mayanck Singh.

Parvati Valley is nestled comfortably amongst conifers and mighty deodars in the Kullu district of the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh. The valley, no stranger to backpackers and tourists, has some of the most beautiful villages in the state.

I travel to the valley every year to escape the heat of the plains. Mountains, along with their beautiful paraphernalia are a solitary abode for me, giving me time for contemplation, and for meeting new people and hearing even newer travel stories. This time, though, I took along a colleague for a 4-day excursion.

Kasol -- or Kasaul, as it is commonly pronounced and written -- is the starting point. A village unlike others in the valley, it serves as a base for further treks deeper into the valley. You can get to Kasol via Bhunter with the usual options -- either a private vehicle or the infamous HRTC bus services. The bus journey takes about 13-14 hours to reach Bhunter, a commercial town replete with an airport, about 500 kms from Delhi. One can also fly to Bhunter from Delhi, but the frequency of flights is low. Buses from Delhi to Bhunter can be booked online -- some of them are even high-end Volvo buses. The buses are very well-maintained and infused with the warmth of the Himachali staff within.

Parvati valley, Parvati valley Himachal
Photo by Rucksack Kruemel.

We got aboard the Himsuta, a Volvo bus run in collaboration with HRTC, from ISBT at Kashmere gate. The bus departed punctually; after a short halt for dinner, I woke up next morning to an amazing view of the mountains and mist. We were still a couple of hours away from our penultimate destination, Bhunter, but the weather already had me charmed. We halted for an early morning breakfast and chai and proceeded onwards.

Soon we disembarked in the town of Bhunter. Kasol is another couple of hours away but it comprises a  rickety, slow bus ride from Bhunter which has frequent buses for Kasol. Soon the scenery completely changes: the mountains are sharper, taller and conifers dot them thoroughly. The Parvati river can be seen flowing alongside at some distance below.
parvati valley
Parvati Valley as seen from from Challal
Kasol is a small town-cum-village, which now even boasts of an ATM. This is a relief because earlier one would have had to get sufficient cash at either Bhunter or Jari -- a town about 10 kms before Kasol. We got off the bus a few metres into Kasol, right in front of the famous Little Italy restaurant and the swanky (by Kasol standards) Shiva Mama Café. Looking for some cosmic indication about where to go, we found ourselves standing next to the entrance for Shiva Shanti, one of the typical cafes found around Kasol, with a sitting area replete with colorful lights, carpets and small, low-rise wooden desks. Unlike other cafes in Kasol, the café has a spacious frontyard with a couple of tents pitched in. This caught our eye and we decided to stay at Shiva Shanti for the duration of our trip.

The advantage of going at this time of the season (i.e. the off-season) is the incredibly cheap prices one can enjoy. We were there in the first week of August, which saw a combination mild showers during late hours of the night and mist all day long. This wards off the crowd from Delhi and thereabouts but many foreign nationals and backpackers can still be seen. Moreover, according to the locals, this year’s devastating floods in Uttarakhand had made  even the foreigners wary of coming to the valley. Whatever the case, we got our tents for 300 rupees a night, which was quite a steal! 

One of the key places to visit is the village of Challal. Just across a bridge from Kasol, this is a quieter and greener place. Like Kasol, it has numerous cafes -- although smaller in number -- and offers homestays. The best among them is the Oh Magic View Café. If you're visiting for the first time -- and that means you've made the semi-arduous climb to the top of the café -- you are most certainly going to be taken by wonder by the view. With a grand and magical view of the valley dotted with the conifers right in front of you -- with the Parvati river for accompaniment -- you are immediately tempted to sit down and keep breathing in the view. A semi-open space, with walls replete with psychedelic art of Indian gods alongside ambient music from the speakers, the cafe's ambience is almost transcendental. A variety of food is served -- from Italian to Israeli to, obviously, Indian. What I always love to devour here, after smoking some leaves, are the stuffed Paranthe -- sumptuous and delightfully crispy at the ends, with butter and dahi to go alongside .

parvati valley
A friendly local at Challal
Deeper into the village are more cafes, most of which seemed empty at this time. The first I came across was Nirvana café, with a beautifully painted Mushroom on its signboard. Further, there was Green Valley café. This café seemed to be empty too, but all for the better. It was marvellous: the river quietens down on this side and flows more gently; the café has a big, flat open space, with piers for sitting and for dipping your feet into the river. 

Beyond Kasol is Manikaran, which everyone is all too familiar with.  Going along that route, the last stop for the HRTC services is at a small village called Barshaini. From there, one can hire private vehicles for the villages of Tosh, Kalga and Pulga on the way, ultimately, to Kheerganga. We had plans to reach Tosh first and decided to climb the 6 kms to Tosh from Barshaini. With occasional stops, it took us around an hour and a half to reach the village.

This village too has many colourful (and colourfully named) cafes -- such as the Pink Floyd, Olive Garden and Evergreen. All of these appeared to be closed. The village square has a sanctimonious piece of architecture in the middle, which is cordoned off -- a fine of Rs 3000 is payable for touching it, accidentally or otherwise. The village has a single “main road”, with houses, drainage, cafes, apple orchards (many of them) situated alongside. Finding a lot of cafes closed down, we proceeded towards a waterfall about 1.5 kms ahead, as indicated by a signboard. We were hungry and weary from the trek, and spotted a small café called “Ishu Shanti Café” located a few metres before the waterfall.

parvati valley photos
View from Ishu Shanti Cafe at Tosh
Our host -- Ishu himself -- was a very congenial person. The café, though neither conveniently situation nor "accessorised" unlike many of its contemporaries, had magnificent and unobstructed views of the Valley. Kasol could be seen below in the distance, as could the mighty Himalayas, with a green façade and mist creeping off their tops. The café had some great Psy Trance playing which eventually shut down due to the low voltage of the supply. Ishu also rents out rooms, available above the café for just Rs 150 a night -- and they have magnificent views! The air is never cold, just pleasantly cool and continuously flowing, shaking and sweetly cajoling the marijuana plants ubiquitous in this region. After smoking some, everyone was quiet: the mood was for sinking into the surroundings, for contemplation and peace.

We left at around 3.45 pm to catch the last bus to Kasol at 5 pm. We were already downhill in 45 minutes. After some chai and biscuits to refresh us, we proceeded down to Kasol to spend our final night there.

Author Bio: 23-year-old working in Delhi. Engineer by profession. Loves to meet new people and hear their stories -- travelling is his means to this end.

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  1. Very interesting and informative post written well.

  2. Thank you for your blog. Its really helpful to know more about restaurants and cafes.

  3. Vow..Pictures are really great.

    In these blog, i am really reading the blogs about some unusual places with less commercialization and I think that is the USP of this blog.

    Really enjoyed


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