Parvati Valley, India
If you are interested in exploring more northern villages in India and want to do some trekking then head to the Parvati Valley in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
The unbelievable landscapes of massive cliffs, countless gigantic pine trees and white capped mountains have the ability to take your breath away. The Parvati Valley is home to many traditional villages bursting with culture and wonderful people.
We took the local bus from Manali to Kasol, 120 rupiah ($2) for five hours of constant stopping and cramming of too many people on one bus. Be sure to arrive at bus stops thirty minutes early as they never arrive or leave on time, many times leaving earlier than expected. They normally make good stops for food along the way, however, it’s always good to be prepared for long bus rides. Be sure to grab some fresh fruit, aloo paranthas, samosas and chai. You can’t beat a thirty rupiah breakfast for a delicious parantha, chai and banana. Many of the bus drivers know where to stop for the best street food grub, don’t judge by the appearance of the place and order away.
We missed our stop in Kasol, all of us too entranced by the surrounding mountains and winding scary road on the side of the cliff. Kalga, a very traditional village than can only be accessed by foot, ended up being our final destination for the day. We hiked up the twenty minutes to the spiderweb of dirt paths that lead you through orchards to select cafes and guesthouses. We came across Karma Guesthouse and Monk Cafe, run by two friends from Rishikesh. We got a top floor room with a view for 400 rupiah ($6) for the night.
We went for a quick walk up the mountain through the forest to a valley that opened up to stunning views of the Himalayas. We heard winds and turned around the see a massive storm coming over Tosh, the village two kilometers away. The wind started to howl and it started to rain pine needles, we turned around to head back and a minute later it started to hail massive chunks of ice out of the sky. The weather changed in an instant. We ran back through the orchards to our guesthouse where I curled up by the fire and did some writing before getting lost in Harry Potter once again. I met some fellow travelers all from bigger cities in India, taking a break from their hectic work schedules to chill out for a few days in the quaint villages.
The guys who ran the guesthouse cooked us a big family dinner complete with yellow dhal, vegetable curry with mushroom, potatoes, rice, salad and chapati. It was so much food, but delicious nonetheless. Only 250 rupiah ($4) each. The dinner conversation consisted of hearing all different facts about India and the difference between people from Himachal Pradesh and the rest of India from a local’s perspective.
There are over 232 dialects spoken throughout India, but Hindi is the national language. Can I get a HOLY COW?! I was blown away when I heard this.
We were off to bed with full stomachs and tired minds. Unfortunately one of our windows was a piece of tarp and there was a hole in the other window making for a very chilly night in negative one degree weather, but we survived by cocooning ourselves in blankets.
The beautiful sunny massive mountains made up our backdrop as the owners greeted us with fresh chais in the morning. You could see Tosh with the incredible white peaks in the background. We were told Tosh was more commercialized and has lost a lot of it’s local flavor, so we admired it from afar. Pulga, the traditional village next to Kalga, is about an hour and a half walk and can only be reached by foot. You can also do the ten kilometer trek to Khirganga from Kalga, but you must leave early in the morning and allow yourself a full day to get there and back.
We packed our bags and headed out to find a bus back down to Kasol. When you ask locals questions many of them laugh after answering you. I am not sure if this is them making fun of us or if they just find humor in looking at our befuddled faces when they respond, but the laughs are contagious. Sometimes when you are frustrated it can piss you off because you feel like they are mocking you, but try to laugh with them. I don’t think we’ll ever truly understand what makes them laugh....
A few cars passed by with our thumbs up, but luckily I waved one down and a nice local couple took us all the way to Kasol for free! The drive consisted of stopping and reversing multiple times to let buses through without falling down the side of the cliff. After forty five minutes we finally made it to Kasol and enjoyed some local Himalayan food for breakfast. Aloo parantha, chai and masala omlette only 90 rupiah ($1.50)!
We took the day to explore the nearby village of Malana. The cab was 500 rupiah each ($7.50) for an hour and a half long drive to Malana, a three hour wait and a ride back. The road was unbelievable, winding along the side of cliffs while passing landslides and massive potholes. An incredibly stunning terrifying experience with our cab driver nodding off every five minutes. I kept him awake with annoying questions and constant banter. We finally reached the magic valley of Malana, where you have to trek thirty minutes to an hour into the village.
The people of Malana are beautiful, lighter skinned and light eyes. You are not allowed to touch anything or anyone who lives in Malana without getting fined. They do transactions on mats that they place on the ground. Say you want to buy a water bottle... They put a mat on the ground, place the water bottle on it, you pick up the water bottle and place your money down on the mat where they then pick the money up. Transaction complete. If you like magical treats and herbal substances I highly recommend visiting Malana. I’ve never seen anything quite like this village. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so pack your bags and go!
The Parvati Valley is full of beautiful treks and great guesthouses. If you have time I recommend checking out Malana, Rashol, Gran, Tulga, Pulga, Kalga and Tosh.
Note to all travelers: If you want to rent scooters do it in Manali, Kullu or Bhuntar as you will only get motorbikes in Kasol. We were unable to ride the motorbikes due to the gears... A motorbike goes for 1000 rupiah a day ($15).
Where to stay:
There are guesthouses everywhere just walk around and take your pick! The Karma Guesthouse in Kalga was lovely because of the hosts, but I know we could have found a warmer room.
Where to eat in Kasol:
- Himalayan Food Corner - Try the aloo paranthas or kadai paneer!
- Kasol Daily Grind Coffee
Where to eat in Kalga:
- Monk Cafe
- Shiva House
Enjoy your treks and be safe!