Kasol fondly called the mini-Israel among the backpackers is a Himalayan Hamlet in the Parvati Valley. Once known for its raw beauty has now become a popular tourist destination and a must-see place for every backpacker. In this backpackers’ guide to Kasol, I tried penning down my experience of traveling in Kasol in the month of June 2019.
Kasol has been on my bucket list for almost 2.5 years now. I first heard about the place during my first solo trip to Gokarna. This was before I was acquainted with all the media around travel on Instagram. So naturally, I felt so excited about this place that this was literally the first thing I wanted to go whenever I went to Himachal Pradesh. And there I was after reading a lot of backpackers guide to Kasol, yet I was awestruck.
If I have to describe the trip to Kasol in one sentence, it would be this.
“It’s a wonder until you see it and it’s a magical memory for the rest of your life.”– Probably Original!
How to reach Kasol from Delhi/Bhuntar
Option #1- By Road:
Starting Point: Delhi
Mode of Transport: HRTC Volvo Himsuta Bus (AC Semi- Sleeper)
Fare: INR 1500 Approx.
Option #2- Air
Fly down to Bhuntar airport & take a taxi/bus from Bhuntar to Kasol. HRTC local buses ply between Bhuntar & Manikaran. Though the frequency of buses is one bus every 1 hour or so. Bus service between the said locations stop after the 5 PM, so plan your travel around that constraint.
Accommodation in Kasol
By the virtue of being a popular backpacker destination, there are a number of hostels that sprung up in Kasol. A pre-booking may not be required, but if you’re too particular about the facilities you wish to have, then pre-book it. Below are my Stay details:
Stay at Kasol(Moustache Kasol): INR 400/Night/Head
The Journey: Delhi to Kasol
The views of alpine meadows, those turquoise blue water streams, the very aggressive Parvati river, I have read everything I had to know from all the backpackers’ guide about Kasol. Yet, it surprised me. My first memories from Parvati Valley were landslides, the glittering turquoise blue water under the shimmering moonlight and of course the bumpy and cliffhanging narrow roads. We reached Kasol at around 7 AM against our expectation of 10 AM.
It’s a hamlet and there weren’t many people on the streets yet. Many shops were closed as well. Within moments of getting down the bus, I clicked about 6 Pics. The landscapes are so pretty at even a single degree turn of your head, that I couldn’t resist but capture all of those views.
Then It stuck me. I have been visiting, hunting for viewpoints all my life so far, in all my trips, in all my treks, that it was finally the moment. To stop hunting for “the point” for “the moment” coz it was eternal.
“It was everywhere. When every inch of the place is so beautiful, you no longer have to rush to the next good place. You just have to sit back and let it all sink in.“
Tranquil Mornings in Kasol
So, I just stood there, letting the calmness and peace settled down in every nerve, every beat. There were quite a lot of shops and cafes along the road. As we started walking back towards Kasol, another breathtaking view caught us off guard. The mountains around were so tall that the beam of sunlight from the top of the mountain to the ground in the shadow region was clearly visible.
We walked back from the bus stand to The Moustache, Kasol where the stay for the night was booked. It was a tall building by the river and had an adjoining cafe. The co-travelers were still asleep and the property manager was also unavailable for a moment.
It was a clear blue sky and the sun was shining bright. We were casually looking around, in awe of the huge mountains that stood in front of us. On one side were the alpine meadows and the pine trees seemed to have no end at all. On the other side was what appeared to be a rocky mountain with only a few patches of pine trees.
While we were busy gazing around, a black and white combination caught my eyes. Sneaking behind the blinding sun rays was a snow-capped mountain. It was an ecstatic moment as it was my first sight of the snow-capped mountains. We quickly climbed up the building to get a better view and boy was it beautiful?
No. It was breathtaking.
When we climbed up, the wind was too heavy, it almost felt like the view swept me off my feet. The idea was to just explore Kasol and probably take a stroll on the Chalal hiking trail for the day. So we dumped the luggage in the designated tents, freshened up and walked back onto the main road for some breakfast & shopping. While we were looking for some souvenirs to buy, a man in dhoti and turban approached us.
How Sellers “ROLL” in Kasol
He, in a very husky tone, said, “chahiye kya”. It hit us almost immediately that he was referring to the material which Kasol is very famous for. I knew it was rampant but this was too direct a sale pitch to believe :P. We politely refused and continued the search for a breakfast place.
From my research, there were numerous cafes that I wanted to try out, but unfortunately, none were open except one roadside Dhaba that served “the familiar Paranthes”, the quintessential pahadi food- Maggi & some bread omelet. After trying out all the available options at that Dhaba, we went back to the hostel, checked in all our luggage and went off on a stroll along the Chalal trail.
Chalal Trail, Kasol
The trail was a little tricky to find at first. But the locals are friendly and are the best backpackers’ guide one can find in Kasol. They pointed us towards a German Bakery right beside the bus stand. The narrow street from there leads up to the bridge over the Parvati River. A left turn after crossing the bridge will put you on the trail.
The narrow muddy path was following a rivulet and there seems to be a park built along the rivulet. The water was so crystal clear and I was so disappointed to see the plastic that clear water carried. You, the reader of this post, a humble request, please travel responsibly & don’t pollute these heavenly lands.
The trail is pretty clear and you walk under the pine trees that seemed to be reaching for the sky, with the roar of Parvati River accompanying you throughout. The trail is also dotted with a lot of cafes and “vendors” who sell “refreshments” for re-fueling yourself.
It was so soothing to be finally out of the concrete jungle and get consumed by the wilderness surrounding us. The trail has enough shade so you won’t find it exhausting even if you’re walking in the afternoon. You will get an occasional panoramic view of the Parvati river & alpine meadows.
We continued walking for a while until we spotted a school building. Reading the signage, we realized that we’ve reached Chalal.
However, when asked around, we were told that usually trek up to Rasol & Malana from Chalal and the trail gets really steep after this. It roughly takes about 3-4 Hours from Chalal to reach Malana(confirmed by the travelers who were coming back from Malana). It appears as if the chalal trail is popular only because of the cafes en route. Hmm… that’s something that none of those Backpackers’ guide to Kasol mentioned.
So, We thought of attempting the trek but didn’t want to exhaust ourselves before the much-awaited Kheerganga trek that was planned for the following day. So, we turned around and started walking on the same trail. We had enough time to kill, so we took odd turns at a few places just to explore the area. Found few cute doggies on the riverbank in one such exploration.
It started drizzling, so we quickly ran to the nearest cafe we saw and sat down below the tent.
We ordered some hot chocolate & played some games to kill time. Soon after the rain receded, we left the place and headed back to Kasol. We were really hungry and hoped that at least one of those must-try-in-Kasol-cafes were open. And luckily for us, Evergreen cafe was open.
FOOD Options in Kasol
One of the things that clearly stood out from the research of all those backpackers’ guide to Kasol was the food. Apparently, the Israeli food is a must-try in Kasol. The variety and taste is something that is said to be unmatched to anywhere else in India. So, obviously we had to try that and almost all of us ordered the Israeli food. And trust me it was finger licking good.
I would highly recommend Evergreen cafe for the service and taste. Since it rained, the sky was clear from all the dust that was around. The clear skies made way for en even clearer view of the snow-clad peaks. It was the same mountain that we saw in the morning but only this time, since the sun was in front of it, the view was clear and brighter.
It was already 5 PM by the time we were done at Evergreen Cafe. We walked back to Moustache Kasol, unpacked, freshened up.
The cafe area of the hostel was lit & in the pitch darkness all around, all we could hear was the music of the Parvati River. The Kasol I knew used to be a party place with parties going well into the late night. However, during the post-dinner stroll, there was literally a chilling silence across the village.
There was only one place where there was some live music gig was happening. We went back to the hostel after the stroll, spoke to a couple of guys who were also backpacking around Parvati Valley. Exchanged notes about the Kheerganga trek and we were off into our tents for a warm sleep.
The plan was to hike to Kheerganga for overnight camping atop the mountain the following day. But more on that in the next blog post.
For now, the journey, unfortunately, ends here!
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Asta La Vista!
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