“Wait, you’re heading to Kasol too??”
It’s summer time in India and it feels that the roads are on fire! Seriously, with the mercury rising close to 48 degrees in New Delhi and 35 degrees in Mumbai and around, we all need our dose of mountain magic. Almost everyone that I know is traveling to the mountains on some weekend or the other. While the family groups and honeymoon couples head to places like New Manali, Shimla, Nainital, Palampur, the new generation of backpackers head elsewhere. And where do most of them go? Kasol!
Pssstt.. Kasol and Kasoli are two different Himalayan destinations and are very different from each other.
Wait, Where is Kasol?
Kasol is in the state of Himachal Pradesh in Northern India, near Manali. It is in the Parvati valley which is a part of India’s hippie trail. If you’re heading to Kasol this summer, I urge you to try some nearby destinations as well. Some of them can be accessed by a quick walk, a few by 4-5 hours of bus ride but most of them can be accessed only if you trek.
Anyway, here’s a list of 11 hippie destinations in the Himalayas that you can visit starting from Kasol.
01 | Kasol
What was once a quaint little destination next to Parvati river, is now a party destination full of young backpackers. Why do they go there? Many reasons. The obvious ones are – it’s a good escape from the scorching heat, it’s easy to reach by an overnight bus from Delhi and it’s in the lap of the Himalayas. Moreover, it’s a fun destination for young travelers because Kasol is usually devoid of families and honeymoon couples. The biggest reasons – it has an underground psytrance culture and an easy access to some homegrown magical herbs that are purer, more affordable and way more potent than what you get in Amsterdam’s coffee shops. Yes, Kasol is India’s hashish capital and it’s not a secret anymore.
Pro tip: Be careful as buying and consuming hash (or charas) is illegal in India and there are many checkpoints in this area.
How to reach Kasol
Catch any bus that’s heading to Manali and get off at Bhuntar, which is 2 hours before Manali. These buses typically run from Paharganj / ISBT / Majnu Ka Tila in Delhi from 4 pm to 7 pm and take around 12 hours to reach Bhuntar. I highly recommend you book an air-conditioned Volvo bus preferably from Himachal Tourism (HPTDC). As you board the bus, let the bus conductor know that you will get off at Bhuntar so that they can mark your luggage accordingly and wake you up at 5 – 6 am. Expect to get surrounded by 3-4 taxi drivers when you reach Bhuntar even though it’s very early in the morning. If you want to save money, politely say no to them and walk a little ahead and take a right turn to reach Bhuntar’s bus station which is less than 5 minutes walk away. From here, you will find many buses to Kasol, Barshaini, Kullu, Manikaran and around.
Where to stay in Kasol
If you’re specifically looking for a hostel, you can also try Nomads Hostel, which is a little towards Chojh bridge. A bed here costs around $10. Another cool hostel in Kasol that you can check out is The Hosteller and a bed here costs around $8 per night.
A few of my favorites are Deep Forest Kasol, Free Spirit and Alpine guest house. Please note that these are budget places with no frills attached. If you want to camp or are carrying your own tent, check out Kasol Camps, Parvati Woods Camp, or Aman Camps. If you want to stay in a place that’s slightly higher end, try Evergreen Hotel, Hotel the Yerpa, or Memoir Homes.
02 | Chalal
Chalal is a no-brainer and is the closest in the list to Kasol. Chalal can be reached by just crossing the bridge over the river in Kasol. Wooden houses, cafes and beautiful viewpoints – it’s so close to Kasol, yet it feels like a different world. Freedom cafe has the best viewpoint in Chalal.
How to reach Chalal from Kasol
Reach Kasol and cross the bridge over Parvati river to reach Chalal. This walk amidst alpine trees will not take you more than 20-30 minutes.
03 | Tosh
Tosh is a magical village which has still managed to retain it’s quaint charm despite a new road that has been constructed to make this place more accessible. There is no road inside the village, hence walking is the only mode of transport. If you walk at the end of Tosh and cross the village, there is a little trail that leads to a waterfall. You don’t need to book a place to stay from before. Just reach and ask for Siva Moon, Shiva Garden or Pink Floyd cafes for a room to stay.
How to reach Tosh from Kasol
You can catch a bus from Kasol to Barshani and from there trek for around 2.5 KMs to reach Tosh. This trek is very easy and fun because of the sights that one can witness. The trek is uphill and can take around one hour if you walk at a leisurely pace. Alternatively, it is also possible to catch a taxi up to Tosh.
04 | Kheerganga
Kheerganga is 5-6 KMs away from Tosh and the only way to reach is by trekking. The reward? A hot water pool at the highest point in this village surrounded by snow peaked mountains! Legend has it, Lord Shiva meditated in Kheerganga for 3000 years and the water from the hot springs is supposed to be holy. For more details, you can read about my experience here.
How to reach Kheerganga from Kasol
In order to visit Kheerganga, we highly recommend you stay at either Tosh or Manikaran for the night and start your journey at 5 – 6 am in the morning. You can start your trek from either Manikaran, Tosh or even Barshaini. Just ask the locals and they will guide you where to start the trek from.
05 | Kalga, Pulga Tulga
Kalga, Pulga, and Tulga are three different villages but are commonly referred to as a “trio”. Legend has it, that these were once the names of three sisters who lived in this valley centuries ago! Just like Tosh, these three villages can be accessed from Barshani (or Barshaini) too and they are on the other side of the Parvati river. The nearest to Barshani are Pulga and Tulga. The way to Kalga from Barshaini is really beautiful and is surrounded by alpine forests. If you plan to stay in Kalga , try and look for “The Pink house” which is run by a friendly sadhu baba. If in Tulga , you can stay at “Peace Place hotel”.
How to reach Kalga from Kasol
Reach Barshaini by bus or taxi and start your trek from there. The trek from Barshaini to Kalga will take you about an hour.
06 | Rashol (or Rasol)
Rashol can only be accessed by trekking from Kasol through Chalal village. As you cross Chalal, you will see “Magic Rasol” written on the rocks with arrows that will guide you to your destination. The trek is easy and it takes around 3 hours and it gets steeper towards the end. This trek is surrounded by Rhododendron trees with vibrant red flowers. There is not much to do in Rasol, except enjoy the tranquility. There is an ancient Shiva temple in Rasol.
How to reach Rasol from Kasol
From Kasol, cross the bridge over parvati river to reach Chalal and from there you will see a trail that leads to Rashol. Travel time from Kasol to Rasol is 3 hours.
07 | Malana
Trek to Malana is not as easy as Tosh or Kalga but is shorter than Kheerganga. The solitary village if Malana was cut off from the rest of the world for many years and many say it’s the oldest democracy in the world. Legend has it that many years ago, Alexander the Great’s army took a shelter in this area and ended up staying here for many years. Thus, as per this theory, Malana was founded by remnants of his army and many people of Malana are the descendants of Alexander the Great’s Greek shoulders. The people of Malana consider all outsiders to be untouchable, so please don’t touch or photograph anyone.
How to reach Malana from Kasol
You will need to get out of Kasol to go towards Bhuntar by bus or taxi. The trail starts from the center of the village Jari, which is 15 KMs ahead of Bhuntar. From Jari, it’s about 4 hours. We recommend you stay at Jari overnight and start your trek from there. I have heard that there’s another way to Malana village from Rasol, but this is unverified information. If you know of this way, please let me know! 🙂
08 | Old Manali
Manali is the most well known destination in this list and over the years, it has become highly commercialized. However, please note, Manali is divided into two sections – New Manali and Old Manali where the former the the touristy area and latter is where I recommend you go. Old Manali was on the original hippie trail of the 1960s and 1970s and this is where it all started before all the nearby destinations were explored. We highly recommend you eat freshly caught river trout fish at Kathmandu cafe for a meal to remember. Do try Yak cheese sandwiches at German bakery, special mushroom omelette (magic) at Sunshine cafe or get your dreadlocks attended to at Rasta cafe.
How to reach Old Manali
Since Manali is the most famous destination in the list, it’s very easy to find direct buses from Delhi / Chandigarh that will drop you to New Manali. Take a tuk tuk from New Manali to Old Manali, or just walk for 30 minutes and cross the bridge. If you’re in Kasol and want to reach Manali, you will have to take a bus to go back to Bhuntar. If you’re lucky, you will find a direct bus from Bhuntar to Manali, otherwise you will need to take a bus to Kullu and another one from Kullu to Manali. The bus journey is time consuming because the buses stop very often but is affordable. It took us around 5 hours from Kasol to Manali by three different buses.
Where to Stay in Old Manali
If you like staying in hostels, then Old Manali has many of them. You can also try Zostel Manali, which is a famous Indian hostel chain. You can also check out One Light Hostel, YOLO Backpackers Hostel, Backpacker Panda, Bonfire Manali, and Born Free Hostel.
Non hostel folks can check out TLH Forest Way Cottage, Manali Chill Guest House or check out the most popular place to stay here – Johnson Lodge. Johnson Lodge is a little before the bridge that connects Old Manali with New Manali and has really comfortable rooms. The food here is excellent and so is the lounge with a fireplace inside.
09 | Vashisht
Famous for its hot springs, Vashisht is more close to Manali than Kasol. They bathing area is inside the temple and is separate for men and women. Back in January 2010, I visited this place and had an unforgettable experience when I thought of taking a dip in the hot water pool but it unexpectedly started snowing. Maybe it was my imagination but the water from the hot springs mysteriously got hotter as soon as it started snowing. Due to this severe temperature variation, I was not able to dip more than my toe in this water! It was hilarious as the only ones inside the pool were some local women and they started laughing at my funny reaction. A dip in the hot water pool of Kheerganga was more enjoyable because the area around was open but the hot water pool in Vashisht is in an enclosed area. While you’re there, you can also trek to Jogini Falls which is only 2 KMs away from Vashisht.
How to reach Vashisht
Reach Manali take a taxi or a tuk tuk to Vashisht. You can also reach by walking because it’s only 2 KMs away.
10 | Dharamkot / Bhagsu
Unlike the above mentioned destinations that are close to Manali, Dharamkot and Bhagu are near Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj. Dharamkot is a hippie little village with only one road that ends where the village starts. Bhagsu can be reached by walking from Dharamkot or from MacLeodganj both. Bhagsu is famous for Bhagsu Nag waterfall and temple. Out of these two places, I prefer Dharamkot for its relaxed vibes and unbelievable food. Oh and do try the famous “Bhagsu cake” while you’re here. Read about my Dharamkot visit and our discovery of a secret waterfall in this area that’s perfect for a swim.
How to reach Dharamkot / Bhagsu
Take an overnight bus from Delhi / Chandigarh / Bhuntar / Manali to McLeod Ganj. Even though Bhuntar and Manali are not as far as Delhi, the journey still takes an entire night by bus. Get off at McLeod Ganj and ask for walking directions to Dharamkot. As soon as you reach a cafe called “Trek and Dine”, you will know that you have entered Dharamkot. The walk from McLeod Ganj to Dharamkot will not take you more than 20 – 30 minutes. You can reach Bhagsu village from McLeod Ganj and Dharamkot both. It is possible to reach both these villages by a tuk tuk from McLeod Ganj.
11 | Triund
Triund is a flat patch in the middle of the mountains with a spectacular view of the majestic Dhauladhar range. The trek time is shorter if you compare it to Kheerganga (from Tosh) but this trek will make you tired because it’s kind of like climbing a massive stair case made out of rocks through the mountains. I recommend you stay at Dharamkot / Bhagsu area the night before you start your trek to Triund. Start very early in the morning to avoid trekking in the sun. It’s possible to rent a tent here to sleep overnight for as low as INR 300 per night.
How to reach Dharamkot / Bhagsu
Reach Dharamkot / Bhagsu / McLeod Ganj and start your trek from there. Trekking to Triund from Dharamkot will take you around 4 hours.
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Kheerganga trek of Parvati Valley
Dharamkot – a hippie village in the Himalayas
Gallu Village in the Himalayas
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