There is more to Himachal Pradesh (HP) than Shimla, Manali and Dharamshala. Popular destinations in the hills get crowded during the summer and traffic jams, pollution, tourists and locals fighting over parking, seating space in restaurants, queues, accommodation and water shortage are common phenomena.
Parvati Valley in Himachal is one of the regions we recommend you visit if you’re looking for an uncrowded mountain getaway. Although famous for high quality hash and popular amongst those who like to live ‘high’, there is more to this valley than just that. Lush green forests, the mighty Parvati River and angling trout, outstanding views of the snow capped Himalayas and treks to Himachali villages that still follow ancient traditions and cultures is what you can expect when you visit this valley.
If you are planning to visit, make Kasol your base. There are a couple of comfortable resorts in Kasol and nice restaurants. You can get all the essentials for your trip and also catch public transportation for your onward journey.
Trekking in Parvati Valley
We recommend you stay for at least three nights, especially if you are driving from Delhi which takes anywhere from 11 to 14 hours by road. An alternative is to fly in to Bhuntar airport in Kullu and then a taxi can be arranged to take you to Parvati Valley. Ideally, you should plan to visit Parvati Valley between the months of October to April. May and June gets crowded as the temperature soars in the plains of north India and July to September is monsoon season and landslides and road closures can happen anytime.
If you are keen to do day treks (easy to moderate level) then we recommend a trek to Kheerganga. Kheerganga is a holy place and there are sulphur hot springs at 10,000 feet above sea level. You can take a dip in the hot spring, there is a separate section for men and women. The minerals in the hot springs temporarily cure pains and aches caused by the long up-hill hike up to Kheerganga.
Trekking to Kheerganga in Parvati Valley
Kheerganga Hot Springs
The views of the Himalayan snow-clad peaks are stunning and even more so when you take a right from the hot springs and walk for about 200 meters till you reach an open meadow. This trek takes a full day as you have to walk approximately 15 KM. A guide can be arranged to take you to this and other treks in the valley.
Carry something to munch on and a bottle of water which you can re-fill from one of the many natural springs on the way. The trek is beautiful as it passes through thick forests, cascading waterfalls and the ancient village of Nathan.
Hike to Tosh Village from Barsheni dam
The view from Kheerganga
Do check with us if camping for the night is possible in Kheerganga. In the past authorities ordered all camp sites to be disbanded as they were found to be littering the place and tourists were caught with illegal contraband and alcohol. Keep in mind that for Hindus, Kheerganga is a holy place and you must adhere to the customs and traditions when there.
If the hike to Kheerganga sounds intense, then we can get you driven from Kasol to either Barsheni or all the way up to Tosh Village. Tosh is a small quaint village with stunning views of snow clad Himalayan peaks. There are several homestays and locals are very friendly to tourists many of whom are backpackers both from India and other countries.
View from Tosh Village in Parvati Valley
With local children in Tosh Village
Once at the village you can walk to the other end (through the village) in the direction of the waterfall and back. On your way you will pass by traditional village houses built in kath-kuni style of architecture and will see some more amazing views of the Himalayan peaks and the valley. Takes about half a day depending on your pace and how far you would like to hike.
Another interesting day trek is to the ancient village of Malana. Malana is known to many as the birth-place of ‘Malana Magic’ a pure form of hash and to others as a pure-blood Aryan village.
Portrait of a lady from Malana Village
Some Malana locals even claims that their ancestors were injured soldiers left behind from Alexander the Great’s Greek army after his failed attempt to cross the Indus river in to India 2,000 years ago. The only way to reach the village is by walking up although there are talks of widening the path making it accessible for vehicles. We can get you driven to the base of the hill from where its a 2-3 hour up-hill walk to Malana.
Malana village has only recently started to keep up with the outside world so be careful not to invade their local traditions. It is considered rude for outsiders to shake hands or hug locals or their cute little kids. They don’t appreciate it if outsiders enter their homes or touch their beautifully done intricate wooden frames or walls.
Malana Village – Outsiders are fined for touching the temple
An ancient temple in Malana village
They are very particular of outsiders entering their temples and there are sign boards everywhere indicating of fine and being thrown out of the village should you be caught breaking any of the rules! Malana has it’s own law and order system and they normally do not tend to follow the law of the land but that of the decisions made by their diety, Jamlu rishi.
Many claim that Malana is one the oldest democracies in the world. The tiny village of 2,000 odd people has it’s own language which only they speak and no one else. Recently, they banned outsiders from sleeping in homestays and eating in the village. So on the outskirts there are cafes and a few very basic tents that can serve you a quick bite or you can stay the night too. This trek also takes half a day but you can do more depending on your level of interest and conversations that you have with the locals.
There is plenty to do in Parvati Valley. For the adventurous and active hiking kinds, angling fanatics, to the meditation and yogis, it depends entirely on what you want to do there. If you are like us – who love being in nature, going on nature trails and lesser crowded places, you will no doubt have a great time in Parvati Valley.
Malana woman making yarn