State: Himachal Pradesh
Distance: 534 km N of Delhi Travel Time By road 10 hrs
When to go: End-April to end-October. In the other months, stay at Kasol is possible but the snow and temperature will make it tough to trek and camp
Tourist Offices: HPTDC, Dhalpur, Kullu
Tourist Information Centre
Web: himachaltourism.gov.in, hptdc.nic.in
STD code: 01902
Air: Nearest airport is Bhuntar (30 km/1 hr).
Rail: Nearest railhead is Kalka (310 km/ 7 hrs).
Road: From Delhi, drive to Chandigarh via Ambala. Take NH21A to Bhuntar via Bilaspur, Mandi, Pandoh and Aut. From Bhuntar (before Kullu), take the right turn to Kasol via Jari.
Kasol is a village situated on the banks of the Parvati river, at a height of 1,640 m. It offers good weather almost throughout the year, a scenic view of the valley and untouched hills. It is also a base for many treks nearby and has earned itself the moniker of Himachal Pradesh’s ‘mini-Israel’, as many Israelis come here every year on vacation after their mandatory military training. Proof of this point is in the fact that almost all signage in Kasol is in Hindi as well as Hebrew.
Things to see and do
Kasol is the laid-back base from which several close-by sites can be visited. What begins as a two-day weekend may just end up being a relaxing long week spent here; such is the charm of this tiny hamlet.
Located 5 km away from Kasol, this lovely village offers a maze of small streets, lined with wooden houses and colourful facades. It is a pilgrimage centre for both Hindus and Sikhs and the hot spring inside the Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara is considered auspicious. The gurdwara itself is a huge, impressive structure located on the bank of the river, with colourful flags everywhere and a constant crowd. The structure was built to commemorate Guru Nanak Dev’s visit to Manikaran.
The aforementioned hot spring is claimed by residents of the village (with some pride) to have curative powers and is so hot that rice can be cooked in it! Also in town are shrines dedicated to Krishna, Rama and Vishnu.
Sar Pass Trek
This trek starts from Kasol and is composed of six villages: Grahan, Padri, Ratapani, Nagaru, Biskeri and Bhandak Thatch. The path leads through a lush green forest, with beautiful waterfalls on the way. The vegetation is dense and various birds can be spotted or heard along the way.
To start this hike, you first need to take a local bus or a motorcycle till Barshaini. From there, it is an 11-km walk till Kheer Ganga, a trek that is at once physically challenging and refreshing. After the climb, you are rewarded with the opportunity to bathe in the hot spring, which is accessible from the end of April to the end of October every year. You can also camp here. Carry a torch, as there is no electricity in Kheer Ganga.
Tosh is a village of much scenic beauty, and is ideal for meditation, peace and solitude. The locals are mostly farmers who cultivate apples and hashish, the main source of income here. The temple of Jamdagni Rishi at the centre of the village is on the banks of Tosh Nallah.
From Barshaini, you can go through Kalga, a steep uphill climb lasting about 20 minutes, or Pulga (30-40 minutes). It takes 1 hours from Pulga to Tosh.
Where to stay and eat
Hotel Sandhya Kasol (Tel: 01902-273745, Cell: 09218525695; Tariff: INR 2,300-5,000; www.sandhyahotels.in) is a nice property with a restaurant, bar and coffee shop. Hotel Green Valley (Tel: 273869; Tariff: INR 1,000-3,500; has large bedrooms. The cheapest ones have shared bathrooms. Alpine Guest House (Tel: 273710; Tariff: INR 800-2,000; www.alpineguesthouse.net) has spacious rooms and serves multi-cuisine meals.
Close by, in Dhoonkhara village, lies the beautiful, luxurious Himalayan Village (Tel: 276266, Cell: 09805072712; Tariff: INR 7,600-10,600; www.thehimalayanvillage.in) with six cottages and two machans. They have a restaurant, bar, spa and organise activities.
Krishna Guesthouse is a wooden house with a view on the snow peaks and offers three bedrooms. The host Krishna and his wife cook amazing home food. And it is only INR 100 per night.
Sharma Sadan Guesthouse (Tel: 01902-273703; Tariff: INR 250-350) has clean rooms with bathrooms. They have a restaurant as well. Fateh Paying Guesthouse (Cell: 09816894968; Tariff: INR 300) with five rooms is more like a family retreat.
In Kheer Ganga
This tiny place has only two-three basic accommodations but a large choice of campsites and a couple of restaurants.
Hotel Hilltop (Cell: 09816380515; Tariff: INR 300-800) is a budget hotel. It has cosy rooms and serves international cuisine. Some rooms have TVs.