Looking for an Ideal Place to Unwind? Head Off to Kasol in Himachal Pradesh, India
A holiday plan was on the cards, and being so close to the picturesque hill state Himachal Pradesh – that I proudly call home – we were spoilt for choice. The debate was on, with preferences split between McLoedganj, Lahaul and Manali, when one of the fellow traveler woke us up in the middle of the night with his incessant banter about a ‘quaint little village called Kasol’ near Manali. Our efforts to reason it out were all in vain, and two days later, we set out to discover what this rather unheard of destination had to offer.
Calculating our travel time on the basis of the 270 odd kilometers between Chandigarh and Kasol, we arrived at an idealistic five-and-a-half hour journey and decided to set out after brunch. The misappropriation, however, was that we forgot to take into account the hilly terrain; that coupled with our enthused touristy spirits compelling us to halt to take in every breathtaking view along the way – which, by the way, are far too many – meant we overshot the speculated travel time by a couple of hours.
We arrived in Kasol at almost half past 9 in the night, expecting to be greeted by a village in slumber and worried about finding suitable accommodation. But unlike other hill towns and villages, Kasol is rather metropolitan about its night life. The place was all lit up, shops open; people out for a stroll, some others playing cards or just idling by the roadside. It was as if we had entered a carnival; and that sentiment resonated through our weekend getaway.
The beauty of the drive – from Chandigarh to Kasol – begins to unravel only when you are greeted by the enormous Gobind Sagar Lake as you travel past Bilaspur; and it only gets better as you venture higher into the hills. The raw beauty of mountains dotted with Pine trees and rivers twisting to make their way through the rocks make for one of the most scenic views you’ll have a chance to behold. And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we were awed by an incredible view of the Pandoh Dam catchment lake.
Only once before had I seen a sight so picturesque. I need to mention it here, because it had taken my breath away. I refer to Mandarmani, an absolutely stunning, motorable beach, a little over 200 km from Kolkata.
Anyway, coming back to this trip - the drive alone had so much to offer that we were compelled to pull over at every now and then, sometimes to take in the full expanse of a scenic view and at others, just to feel the cool breeze against our faces. The journey put us at over nerves’ ends only when we drifted away from the highway at Bhuntar on to the road leading up to Kasol. It’s a nearly hour-long drive on a pitch dark (if you are travelling after sun down), deserted road with noises of Parvati (the river) in spate adding to the spooky experience.
Kasol, situated on the banks of a perpetually in spate Parvati River, lived up its reputation of being a ‘quaint little village’ in every sense of the word.
Though the village serves as a base camp for various trekking destinations such as Yanker Pass, Khiriganga, SarPass, and offers some avenues for Angling, the place is best for a do-nothing vacation. The place can be mapped on foot in less than 10 minutes, yet this cozy little village has so much to offer that you’ll never find yourself wanting for more.
A flee market – typical of hill towns and similar tourist destinations – dots the main road passing through the village. Besides locally grown fruits, pickles and sweet meats you’ll also find funky clothes, junk and silver jewelry, you can also lay your hands of weed crushers, chillams and hookas made of wood, metal and a stone of a peculiar kind. Even if you are going to use them for their real purpose, it is a good idea to bring back some for keepsake.
The idea of the trip was to undo the stresses of everyday lives with some quite time close to nature. As we wandered in our quest for a quite spot withdrawn hustle-bustle of any kind – sipping coffee and gobbling steaming hot momos in between – we came across a narrow wooden bridge that led to the other side of Parvati. Treading cautiously through a jungle trial made slippery by fallen Pine leaves, we made our way to the river bank. Spreading out on boulders that are in plenty, we lazed around. There was an occasional drizzle followed by sunshine, with the sun playing hide and seek in the clouds. Conversations eluded, as we lay there lost in a reverie until hunger pangs brought us back to life. Then like excited children, we hopped from boulder to boulder till we finally found an exit route leading us back to civilization.
If for nothing else, Kasol must be visited for its food. The place abounds in food joints that more than make up for their lack of inviting looks by the sumptuous, delicious food. The place’s soaring popularity amongst backpackers and foreign tourists has resulted in availability of a variety of cuisines – continental, Chinese, Indian and so on. My favorite was the place’s take on Israeli cuisine. The Pita bread, falafels, chicken schnitzel and hummus you find here isn’t quite like anything you have eaten before. We ate so much and at so many different places, that the memory of flavors and names seems all too entangled. However, a few places that made a distinct impression with their food were Bhoj restaurant, Café Evergreen, Café Stone Garden and the ‘Taj’ restaurant. The cherry on the cake was the tariff on food; we ordered unsparingly and never footed a bill of more than a grand for a meal for four!
Places to Stay
There is no dearth of lodging arrangements in Kasol. From budget hotels that run on a tariff of Rs 1,500 a day to the more economical options of rooms available at Rs 400-750. You don’t have to worry about making prior booking, just pack your bags and get here.
Though the place is famous for its high quality weed, it has a lot more in store for you.
© 2013 Juana Aman