With the sweltering summer gulping India by the day, our northern ranges offer a cool shelter to escape the heat. Being the popular sell outs that they are we wouldn’t be talking about Shimla, Kullu-Manali etc. Instead we would be talking about the fairly less popular option on everyone’s list, the Parvati Valley. Also known as the backpacker’s silk route, a trip to this valley will be nothing but offbeat and memorable. The innumerable mind-blasting views and scenes, forgive us but mind-blowing would have been an understatement, will certainly fill your arsenal of profile pictures and cover photos for another year. A perfect place to satiate your hunger for wanderlust, the Parvati Valley awaits you with a myriad of adventures and escapades; stories which you can share after returning home. While in Parvati Valley, here are some places you may not want to miss out on.
Amidst the rivers of Parvati and Beas and yet to be ruined by commercialisation, Kasol is a gift which you can’t deny. Treks of varying difficulties are found in abundance which you can choose to take as per your fitness. You can indulge yourself in the thrill of river rafting or just relax on the banks of river Parvati soaking in the beauty around you; fishing trouts is another option you can explore if you enjoy fishing. A must try at Kasol are the Israeli and Italian cafes. Be warned, this place is filled with foreigners especially Israelis who come to get intoxicated on charas, so do not feel out of place as you won’t find many Indians here.
Chalal is a small village which is a 30 minute trek from Kasol. You need to cross a shaky suspended bridge over river Parvati to reach Chalal. The ubiquitous presence of Bob Marley flags and graffiti instantly gives you an impression that Chalal hosts some really cool parties. If you are interactive and lucky, you might be invited by the villagers here to have some food. People often visit Chalal to spend a day camping besides the river and do some bird-watching (actual birds :P).
The town of Manikaran (translates to earrings) got its name because of an old legend. About 6 kms away from Kasol and on river Parvati, Manikaran is famous for its hot springs, supposedly the hottest in the world. It is also home to many temples and gurudwara, one of which is Manikaran Sahib. In this gurudwara, pictures of Hindu Gods, Sikh Gurus are kept alongside each other sending a clear message of ‘one God for all’. Manikaran is visited by many Sikhs who besides visiting the gurudwaras, come here to cook rice in the hot waters of the springs (that’s how much hot the water is).
A land of taboos, your visit to Malana will be everything but mundane. Believed to be the first democracy in the world, Malana is beyond the Indian jurisdiction. Malanis have a lot of faith in their ‘Jamblu Devta’, so much so that their laws are blindly based on his beliefs. You will be humbled after coming here because the Malanis consider all outsiders as lower than them and untouchables. The people here have an unshaken conviction that they are the descendants of the Aryan race and are hence above all. A common thing you will notice is a board which says ‘Do not touch walls, houses, things and people – fine 1000 rupees’. The fine is utilized to sacrifice a sheep, a ritual which is said to purify the touched object/person (Superstitious is it? Feel thankful that they don’t slaughter the person). Malana cream, a drug which is famous globally, is most sought by the foreigners and people who visit Malana. Surely we need not spell out that you will unravel many mysteries when you visit Malana.
Pulga is a 4 hour trek east of Manikaran which is a complete nature trail. The first things you will notice about this place are the uniquely built wooden houses. With scenic beauty of the Himalaya at a distance and tea plantations below you, you couldn’t have asked for more. You will see a lot of open pastures full of greenery, a sight you won’t mind paying for in the cities. It gets pleasantly noisy at times because of the children playing games which are rarely played by the urban kids. Foreigners come to Pulga and stay over for months often adapting the lifestyle of the village people; they are also said to have rave parties deep inside the forests of Pulga.
North of Pulga, getting to Tosh is an adventure in itself; it is a steep 90 minute drive from Kasol. Also, please hire a taxi to reach Tosh if you aren’t driving an off-roader as the road is quite rough. There are plenty of apple fields and green pastures along the village. You might be approached by locals to buy hashish (hash) as it is their primary source of income. Catering to the growing demand of hash from foreigners, most of the houses cultivate hashish. Another business which has benefitted from the foreigners is the food business; cafes sell overpriced food which entertains what the tourists like. Tosh isn’t the place which you can visit with your family.
Khirganga is the last stop of Parvati Valley and is 5 kms from Pulga; it can be accessed only by foot. If there is a good hot spring in Parvati valley after Manikaran, it has to be Khirganga. A dip in the hot spring, which by the way is adjacent to a dramatic scenery of the valley, will gently relax your tired body. It is a must to have a tent and be well equipped with food while leaving for Khirganga as accommodation is usually full and there aren’t many eating joints. Donkeys and horses are the only mode of movement other than walking while in Khirganga.
Parvati Valley, which is truly a traveller’s paradise, is slowly receiving its deserved fame. Although popular for its hashish and Malana cream, the valley gives you a different high from the scenic views and adventures. It is all up to you, which of the two highs you choose to experience.
How To Reach Parvati Valley
By Air– Kullu Airport near Kullu is the nearest airport.
By Train – Ahuj Railway station is the nearest railhead from the Parvati Valley
By Road ( From Delhi) – Approx 381kms takes near about 8-9hrs