Quite often, treasures are hidden in between multi-layers of mundane rocks; in this case, in the lesser known wilder-ness of obscure valley. People who have been to Kasol might immediately relate and those who haven’t been there yet, now is your time.The dense pinewood-covered forests with little villages tucked in cosy corners make the topography all the more exciting and is well-complimented by the fierce flow of the Parvati accompanying you from Bhuntar. The winding roads at times dip down to touch its waves and get elevated suddenly to great heights, where summer is mild and winter is cold.
Half-an-hour’s diversion from Bhuntar (that comes four hours before Manali) following the course of the Parvati should take us to this gem of a locale – a pretty Himalayan hill town more popular amongst Israelis than Indians, serving dolby digital sound of the roaring river and the best of Continental and Lebanese cuisine and German bakeries.
It is also a base camp for several treks beyond Parvati valley such as SarPass, Yanker Pass, Pin Parbati Pass and Kheer Ganga. Located 42 km east of Kullu at an altitude of over 1,640 m, Kasol remains cool (around 15 to 20 degrees Celsius) throughout summer and is scarcely populated – making it an ideal weekend destination for those seeking a break from the urban monotony and cacophony.
Once you reach there after an overnight bus journey, the Parvati Valley welcomes you with the alpine freshness of the morning. The facilities you get in Kasol are way better as compared to most hill stations in the country without compromising on the scenic beauty and solitude. Crowded by Isreali youth who flock there in large numbers for long halts after their mandatory army training, Kasol has promptly responded to enhance its living standards, imported grocery availability, dining arrangements, Internet connectivity, and transport facilities for tourists.
There is ample room also for the traveller who travels without an itinerary allowing his unplanned schedules to be determined by the impact of the site.So, if you happen to be a Bohemian backpacker, Kasol has the provision for hosting you for months either in the town or in a village up there through cheap monthly leases. Irrespective of how you want to approach Kasol – for an impromptu weekend trip or spend a luxurious week lazing around – this town is an experience that you won’t forget in a hurry. Kasol, like many other Himalayan destinations, haunts you and invites you again and again. The only difference here is that it offers you comfort too.
Here you have the option of renting a river-side hotel where the windows and balconies open up to the mountains and the view of Parvati allows you to stare away to glory while hogging some excellent apple pies, pastas, hummus and trout fish flies. There is plenty to see around when you step out. Aimless strolling across any one of the suspended looping bridges would take you to small country cottages where people are extremely hospitable.
A 15-minute drive from Kasol would take you to Manikaran that has hot water spring on the banks of Parvati. The water is hot enough to boil rice and has to be mixed with river water if you have bathing plans. The Rama temple and the Shri Guru Nanak Ji Gurdwara attracts pilgrims throughout the year. It is also a halting spot for trekkers moving towards Pulga and Kheer Ganga that further lead to Pin valley in Spiti.
An hour’s drive further up the mountains from Manikaran, takes us to a cosy village called Tosh from where you can see the snow-peaked mountains even in summer. Buses don’t take you to Tosh; you’ll have to hire a cab to reach there.There are several shimmering white ribbons of waterfalls on the way.
Though Tosh is ideal for long halts, preferably in homestays, a short visit is equally worth it considering the sudden elevation in a distance of less than 50km. It happens to be lush green in summer and is under a thick cover of snow in winter. Tosh also leads to the trek route to Kheer Ganga, a place where Lord Shiva is believed to have meditated.
HOW TO REACH
Take a flight to Bhuntar from where Kasol is an hour away by local buses (plying every half an hour for less than Rs 30). A cab from Bhuntar airport to Kasol would cost about INR 500.
From Delhi, take an overnight Volvo or any other bus (from Mori Gate ISBT or Majnu Ka Tila) going to Manali, and get dropped at Mandi early in the morning. From here,change to Kasol via Bhuntar or you may take a direct taxi from Mandi.
TREK TO PULGA
Take up the challenge of the six-hour trek over 16-18 km from Manikaran through the Parvati valley’s pine forests to Pulga. In case you get tired and want to stay back, walk into the Pulga Rest House (+91-190-265041). The trek continues further to Pin and Spiti valleys via several base camps,but that’s a 15-day journey for serious trekkers.
WHERE TO STAY
Stay options range from shacks, homestays, guest houses to comfortable resorts along the banks of the Parvati on the way from Bhuntar to Kasol. But nothing beats the view of the Alpine Guest House (+91-98162-71067),where the rooms look over the Parvati and the lawns come alive with the river’s gushing sounds. Tariff: INR 300 to 700. For cottage stay with garden and private hotwater spring, stay at Taji Place in New Kasol (+91-98164-61684).
WHERE TO EAT
There are plenty of restaurants serving Continental,Chinese, Indian, and Lebanese cuisine along with excellent desserts. Little Italy,playing good music, steals the show with its spread-out sitting arrangement on the first floor that leads to an open balcony and billiard pool. Moondance Restaurant and German Bakery, near the bridge at the main market,have an expansive menu to choose from. Do not miss out on fresh momos and thukpa at roadside tea stalls.
Kasol offers much better facilities in terms of lodging and food than most hill stations, without compromising on its scenic beauty and solitude
By Reema Bhalla