Parvati Valley is one of the most beautiful mountainous destinations in India, not to mention one of my favourite places in the entire world. Though it’s well-known for it’s world famous ‘charas’ (hash), the experience of Parvati encompasses everything from it’s sweeping forest landscapes, to gracefully winding rivers.
Here is an example 7 day itinerary which will enable you to get the most out of your trip to Parvati, no matter where your interests lie. I’ve made the itinerary perfectly adjustable with suggestions on how to modify it according to what you want to do.
Day 1 : Getting to the Himalayas
In order to reach Himachal Pradesh in the Himalayas, the easiest and cheapest way is to get an overnight bus from Delhi. This is the most common mode of transport and there are over 50 buses leaving every night. You can book bus tickets online on www.redbus.in for Delhi to Bhuntar. The majority of buses leave from Delhi from the Majnu Ka Tilla stations. So if you prefer to be spontaneous, you can go there directly and purchase a bus ticket from one of the many travel agents in the area. Be sure to go before 6pm because most buses leave after that.
To reach Parvati Valley, you need to change from Bhuntar and get either a local bus or a taxi from Bhuntar to Kasol. The bus journey will last approximately ten hours, so if you depart from Delhi by 10pm you would reach Bhuntar by around 8am. Before you leave, make sure that you have collected basic items from Delhi that you might need in the mountains. Be sure to carry plenty of cash (approximate costs are given in a table below), because the ATM machines in Parvati are not reliable. If you want to withdraw large amounts it can be easier to visit the bank itself rather than looking around for ATMs. Also, if you want the best signal and internet in Parvati, then purchase an Airtel SIM card before you go.
Day 2 : Kasol, the main village of Parvati
The main village in Parvati Valley is Kasol, which is where the majority of tourists congregate, even during the off season. When you reach Bhuntar in the morning, you can take a public bus to Kasol which will take approximately one hour and cost you less than Rs. 150. This journey is pretty damn nerve-wracking; even though I’ve been on it several times, my stomach still turns upside down whenever I travel on it. The roads are extremely narrow and the bus drivers aren’t afraid of speed.
Nevertheless, it is just as safe as driving through the city. But if you are apprehensive you can hire a cab for around Rs. 900 ($13) from Bhuntar to Kasol. Finding people to share the cab with will reduce the cost further. Don’t bother to bargain though, as prices tend to be fixed by the taxi union.
The bus will drop you at the bridge in Kasol, which marks the intersection between Old Kasol and New Kasol. If you walk right, you will find the ATM and the main market of Kasol. If you walk back across the bridge you find Old Kasol which has a lot of guest houses and restaurants.
When you arrive, you probably want to head straight to find a room. In the mountains, it’s difficult to rely on websites like booking.com and you’re much better suited going there yourself and negotiating. Accomodation can be found both in New Kasol and Old Kasol.
The major landmark in Kasol is the ATM, which is near the bridge in New Kasol. As you walk past the ATM on your right, you will find a number of guesthouses on your left. These are relatively cheap and you could find a reasonable room for Rs. 500 a night in off season, even going past Rs. 1000 in season time.
Towards Old Kasol, you will find bigger and more luxurious guesthouses which will be priced accordingly. There is more choice of accommodation in Old Kasol than in New Kasol, and if you explore enough you can surely find yourself a good deal.
Kasol has tons of places which serve really good food. The town was originally inhabited by an Israeli population, so you’ll find some of the best Israeli food in the country in this little mountain village. Close to the bridge lies Evergreen Case, one of the nicest places in Kasol. With a background tone of progressive and ambient psytrance, they have anything you would need to satisfy yourself. If you go here make sure to order a Lemonana (a crushed ice drink made of lemon and mint)
If you are craving Indian food, head over to one of the dhabas across the bridge towards Old Kasol. You will get a plate of rajma, rice, vegetables and roti for under Rs. 100. In Old Kasol, you will also find tons of Israeli restaurants. Some good ones are Mama Cafe, Sammy’s, and King Falafel. Depending on when you go, some restaurants may be closed.
Now that you have sorted out your basic needs, you can explore a number of things within Kasol before hitting the pillow. Some of the main things you can do around Kasol include the following:
Take a short walk to Chalal
About a 45 minute walk away from Kasol lies the village of Chalal. This is a peaceful village located close to the river. The walk here takes you by the banks of the River Parvati, where you can find a bit more peace and quiet. There are small number of cafes and guesthouses here as well. Over the years, people have started to throw their trash along this beautiful walk. Though there have been a couple of cleanup drives for Chalal, do try to play your part by picking up anything you see along the way.
Take a longer walk to Katagla
If you want to walk a little further, you can go near the riverbank to the village of Katagla. This is a peaceful and slightly smaller village than Chalal, with a few guesthouses and cafes. It would take you around 1 hour to walk to Katagla from Chalal, and around an hour and a half to walk back to Kasol.
Go on a small trek to Rasol
Just above the village of Kasol lies the village of Rasol. This is a completely uncommercialized village higher up in the mountains, and takes 3-4 hours to reach by foot. Though you can do this in a day trip, it is recommended to stay the night because the trek is fairly steep and you would want some time chill. There are a number of guesthouses here and you’d be surrounded by the most astounding view of the mountains.
Get some dreadlocks or hair lulus
In New Kasol, there is one hairdresser further up the road from the ATM who does all kinds of hair extensions. This is one of the few places I found in India that do dreadlocks and lulus. A picture of mine is given bellow. It costs around Rs. 200 for something like mine, and around the same amount for one dread.
Walk around the market
Kasol has a small market where you can buy items you won’t find in many other places. You will find a standard collection of hippie pants, jackets, crop tops, and leggings. They can custom make you leggings with trippy patterns cut out of them which looks quite cool. You can also purchase high quality chillums, smoking paraphenelia, inexpensive crystal jewellery, and woolen items. There are a few shops that sell trippy, psychedelic UV-reactive paintings which look awesome under UV light. Overall, Kasol has a very peaceful hippie vibe to it which makes me instantly feel at home.
Day 3 : Up into the mountains
Now that you have taken rest, filled your stomach, gotten baked, and explored some of Kasol, you can head up to the smaller more traditional villages that lie above. I barely even spend a couple of days in Kasol when I come because it can become fairly crowded during season time, and the small villages are situated in the lap of nature.
Though there are a number of small villages dotted around the valley, the main three are Tosh, Pulga, and Kalga. To reach these three villages, you have to take a bus or taxi from Kasol to the final point of Barshieni.
On the way to Barshieni, you will pass through Manikaran which is a very famousreligious site for Sikhs. There are hot sulfuric springs here in the Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara. Manikaran has a very spiritual air to it, quite distinct from Kasol. Aside from the springs, there is a beautiful Devi temple, and a Shiva temple with an extreme hot water spring that cooks rice in less than fifteen minutes. It is believed that Shiva and Parvati stayed here for 1100 years. If you are short on cash, be sure to pick up money from the ATM at Manikaran as this is probably the most reliable ATM in the region.
When you reach Barshieni, you can either take a taxi to Tosh, or Pulga, or take a 20-minute hike from Barshieni dam to the village of Kalga. It is worth spending at least one day in each village, as each of them has their own distinct character.
As an example, let’s say you decide to spend a night in Kalga first, and then move onto Tosh and Pulga. Kalga is the smallest and least developed of the three villages. It is famous for its expanse of apple orchards and beautiful valley view. During season time, you can find guest house rooms for as low as Rs. 300 a night.
Compared to the other villages, Kalga has a lot of flat land which makes it great to walk around in. You can keep walking inside and find guesthouses that are literally in the middle of nowhere. Kalga is one of the starting points for the trek to Kheer Ganga, which I will explain later on. Like most mountain villages, you will find standard foods here including Maggi noodles, Nutella, roti and daal-rice.
Day 4 : Neighbouring Pulga
After spending one night in Kalga (or a month, if you are like me and want to live there), you can go for a day trip to Pulga. This is another quiet village on a slightly higher incline. It takes around 40 minutes to walk from Kalga to Pulga, across the valley.
Pulga is well-known for its “Fairy Forest,” which is an incredibly beautiful expanse of trees and mountain scenery. A lot of people come here to drop acid because it’s so peaceful and picturesque. Pulga is also known for it’s forest psytrance raves, but these are not entirely predictable. Due to interference from the police, raves are frequently shut down mid-way. Nevertheless, there is always some private party going on during season time but nothing is advertised or planned as such.
If you want to save an extra night, you can move onwards to Tosh before sunset, or even back to Kalga. Seeing as all the villages are within one hour of each other, it’s very easy to navigate between them. However, make sure that you reach your sleeping destination before dark to be safe on the roads and find appropriate transportation.
Day 5 : Tosh and the Mysterious Kutla
Tosh is one of the most well-known villages in Parvati Valley, second to Malana in its fame for charas. But the smoking culture is very subtle; and as you walk around you may see a few people rolling up or lighting a chillum, but apart from that it’s not apparent. Tosh is less commercialized than Kasol, but over the years it has become more and more commercial. Nevertheless, it is worth staying here for a night.
In Tosh, you will find ample places to stay. Don’t just stop at the first few guest houses because you are tired; the walk up is a bit tiring because of all the steps but there are some really nice guesthouses on top. In particular, check out the area around Shiva Power and Mountain View. I always stay around there. Shiva Power has amazing Israeli food. If you are short on cash, you can swipe your card at a couple of locations in Tosh. At a 10% extra transaction cost, they will give you cash (if they have it).
Just a two-hour hike from Tosh, you will find a village called Mysterious Kutla. This consists of maybe four guesthouses and is really very secluded. You can take a local guide with you if you are on your own and think you will get lost. Don’t go here if you are in a large group, it’s not a place where you can be loud. It’s important to show respect for the environment and maintain its peaceful nature. On the way to Kutla you will find a small waterfall, so if you can’t be bothered hiking then you can check out the waterfall and come back to Tosh within an hour.
Day 6 : Hiking Into Heaven
Kheerganga is at an altitude of 5319m and a 4 to 5 hour trek from Tosh. This is an incredibly beautiful place where you will get limited phone signal but ample nature.It is believed that Lord Shiva lived in Kheerganga for 3000 years. It is worth bringing your own tent here which you could rent from Kasol. You will find basic supplies here like food and toiletries. Apart from camping, you can find very small rooms (which are in limited supply). Otherwise you can pay for a mattress in a café at Rs. 100. At night, the few cafes that exist turn into dormitories with mattresses lined up next to each other. It’s fairly comfortable apart from the fact it may be a bit cold.
In Kheerganga, there is a lot to explore. Firstly, you can visit the hot springs which are segregated into male and female sections. Whilst the male section is like an open air pool, the ladies section is covered. The water has strong healing properties for various illnesses. In 2016 summer, there was a hippie gathering called the Rainbow Gathering further up the hill in Kheerganga. This is basically a collection of hippies living in tents, making their own food, and celebrating life in a self-contained community. You can trek further into the mountains from Kheerganga, for example to Pin Parvati Pass or Mantalai lake. If you are trekking, make sure that you have a guide and know the appropriate safety measures; the mountains become harsh and unforgiving at a high altitude.
Day 7 : Back to Kasol
Today you can come back down to Kasol in the morning. It would take you are around 3 hours if you are fast, to come down from Kheerganga back to Tosh. Then you’d need to factor in another hour or two to reach Kasol. If you want to return to Delhi the next day, then you can visit one of the many travel agents near the ATM in New Kasol. They will book you a Volvo AC bus ticket from Bhuntar to Delhi and the ticket will cost you around Rs. 1000. Make sure to reach Bhuntar one hour before your bus leaves from there.
Alternatively, if you leave very early in the morning, you can fit in a small trip to the beautiful temple of Bijli Mahadev in Kullu. To reach here, you would first have to go to Bhuntar, and then to Kullu, from where you can reach the temple. The Shiva-Lingam in this temple shatters into pieces every time it is struck by lightning. From Bijli Mahadev, you can obtain a full view of Parvati Valley with the river meandering in between. Arrange this from beforehand with a taxi driver.
The buses would reach Delhi by 5 to 7am depending on how early you left and how fast the bus driver was. It is very feasible to catch a morning flight out of Delhi at around 10am, and continue onwards on your journey. The bus would drop you at Majnu Ka Tilla, where you will find swarms of rickshaw drivers trying to give you a ride. I have done this many times with no safety issues, but you if you are concerned for safety then just book yourself an Ola or Uber cab.
The primary transportation cost that you will face is airfare. Depending on when you book your ticket, it will cost you anywhere between Rs. 2000 to over Rs. 9000 for a one way ticket to Delhi from a major city in India. I generally book flights one or two weeks in advance, and it usually comes to around Rs. 6000 one way. If you want to save some extra cash you can travel to Delhi by train, which can cost you less than half of this price.
From Delhi, you will pay approximately Rs. 1000 for a one-way Volvo bus ticket to anywhere in Himachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand. Within Himachal, public buses are ridiculously cheap, with a ticket from Bhuntar to Kasol costing around Rs. 150. From Kasol to Barshieni the ticket is about Rs. 50. If you want to travel by taxi, it will cost Rs. 900 to get from Bhuntar to Kasol, and around Rs. 500 to get from Kasol to Tosh (but you can split with your fellow car members).
If you are like me, you will hitchhike, take rides with random strangers, sit on people’s bikes, and hang off the back of a jeep in proper Indian style. So when I am travelling solo, this makes my internal transportation costs practically nothing. If you’re travelling here for the first time or are apprehensive, I wouldn’t recommend doing adventurous things just to save money – safety comes first.
If you are staying for 7 full days, the transportation breakdown would be something like this on average -
Two way Airfare: Rs. 12,000
Two way Volvo bus: Rs. 2000
Two way Kasol bus: Rs. 300
Internal buses: Rs. 100
Internal taxis: Rs. 1000
This totals to around Rs. 15,400. If you are splitting taxis with people then this number will reduce; if you roam around more within Parvati, then it can increase.
Accommodation is most expensive in Kasol, where you can find a single room for around Rs. 400 at it’s cheapest to Rs. 1500 or more during season time. During off season you could find a room with relative ease for Rs. 400 a night. If you are splitting with people it may be as less as Rs. 100.
In Tosh, you can find rooms for around Rs. 500-700 a night, whilst in Pulga you can find them in Rs. 400-500. Kalga is the cheapest at around Rs. 300-400. In Kheerganga, if you are camping then you must include the price of your renting a tent, otherwise you can find a mattress in a café for Rs. 100 a night.
In total for the week it would cost you on your own around -
Kasol 1 night: Rs. 600
Tosh 1 night: Rs. 500
Pulga 1 night: Rs. 300
Kalga 1 night: Rs. 300
Kheerganga 1 night: Rs. 100
This totals to be around Rs. 1,800.
Food is one of the most expensive things in Kasol, and you can easily spend Rs. 400 on one meal if you go to a nice café like Evergreen. On the cheaper side, you could also satisfy yourself with a Thali at Rs. 100 and Paratha for half of that. Considering that you have a balance of the two, let’s say this is around Rs. 700 a day.
In the small villages you will pay much less for food, though you can still easily spend Rs. 300 on a filing meal. If you are going to down cups of ginger lemon honey tea, Honey, count this at around Rs. 30 per glass. So in total for one day in the village count a minimum of Rs. 500 for a day.
In total for 7 days it totals to approximately Rs. 3000 at a minimum.
Shopping here is a little more expensive than other hippie areas like Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. You can find hippie pants for around Rs. 300, pendants and necklaces for Rs. 100 each, bracelets are around the same, and bags for around Rs. 400 each. Chillums will cost you upwards of Rs. 400 depending on the quality, and a woollen jacket will cost you around Rs. 1500. In total I would suggest an average budget of around Rs. 2000 in total to buy items. You will probably want to buy something, because you’re not going to find it very cheap in the city.
One of Himachal’s major products is the world’s best hash (charas). You can find a tola of charas (10 grams) for as cheap as Rs. 800, and this can stretch up to Rs. 4000-6000 for proper Malana cream. On the cheaper end, some of the hash is mixed with Nepali hash and is not of the best quality. The average tola will cost you around Rs. 2500 and this will still be a lot better than stuff you get in the city. The quality gets better the higher you go in the mountains. You will find plenty of people to smoke with in the mountains so sometimes it may not even be necessary to score yourself.
Be careful if you are thinking of bringing back hash from the mountains to the city. In recent years, the checking has increased and become more thorough. If you are checked, the police will scan each and every layer of your attire. In my bus they even picked up scrumpled chewing gum wrappers from the floor to check if someone had hidden LSD in them. They were narcotics officers and they knew what was what. At the end of the day, it is your choice. But if you are carrying more than 3 tolas you will probably end up in jail if you caught.
Whatever you decide to do, just don’t take it with you. Smoke as much as you want in the mountains. Because trust me if you are checked, you will get caught.