For the wanderers by soul and adventurous by heart, the heavenly state of Himachal Pradesh comes as a gift from God. All one needs is a backpack on your shoulder and indomitable spirit to explore the unknown in your mind, and you can conquer the enchanting values that lie within the chains of mountains in this part of the Himalayas. One such is the beautiful Parvati Valley, birthing from the confluence of Rivers Parvati and Beas in the Kullu district of Himachal.
With all its charm and beauty, Parvati Valley lures out thousands of trekkers and travellers every year to its pristine lands, who answer unfailingly to the call of the mountains. Lush green runs along the two banks of the river up the mountain slopes; and higher up there are vast stretches of snow, running right up to the delightful crowns of the majestic peaks. Amidst this brilliant display of nature at its best, there are a bunch of villages with residential huts and tiny little shops scattered sporadically.
Kasol is one such pretty-as-a-picture hamlet, located between Bhuntar and Manikaran. This quaint village is growing in popularity among trekkers and backpackers, but its beauty is still virgin and untarnished enough to give you an enigmatic ambience. The unique thing about Kasol is its globalism amidst localism. You will find people from different ethnicities and far corners of the world settled here, drawn by the appeal of nature. Israelis are in large numbers, and you will spot several restaurants and cafes with Israeli food and Hebrew banners. From Kasol, one can set off for a trek to Kheerganga or take a hike to Malana.
Kheerganga, while being a spiritual site owing to a legend of Lord Shiva, has a sensational beauty of its own. The entire area is a sprawling stretch of green pastures, occasionally interrupted by gurgling hot springs and local huts and cafes.
Tosh lies between Kasol and Kheerganga, tucked between high cliffs and tall conifers. The location largely caters to the Bohemian-style travellers, who were known as ‘hippies’ in the 1960s and 70s. The village is indeed a melting pot of the kind of people who live off backpacks for months and never like to know what adventure awaits them the next day.
Malana, on the other hand, is more of a secluded, laid-back village on a side-valley by the ferocious River Malana, overshadowed by the peaks of Chanderkhani and Deo Tibba. Malana is different from all other villages in the Valley or even in the entire state. The residents of Malana are known for having their own separate lifestyle, culture and language than the rest, and even different legislation.
About Kasol-Kheerganga-Tosh-Malana Trek
- Region: Himachal Himalayas
- Highest elevation: 13,051 ft or 3,977 metres (Kheerganga)
- Difficulty: Easy
- Duration: 4 nights 5 days
- Route: Kasol – Tosh – Kheerganga – Malana – Kasol
- Total distance covered: Kasol to Kheerganga via Tosh – around 30 km, Kasol to Malana – 21.5 km
- Start point: Kasol
- End point: Kasol
- Base Camp: Kasol
- Lodging: Hostels/Homestay/Camp tent
- Weather: The average daytime temperature during summer is 8 degrees to 20 degrees celsius during summer and at night it goes down to 2 degrees to 10 degrees. In winter, it gets much chillier with regular sub-zero temperatures to be expected. However, snowfall is not that treacherous here and the region can be trekked any time of the year. You will just need to have a higher tolerance to cold.
- Nearest airport: Bhuntar
- Nearest railway station: Joginder Nagar
- Last ATM: Kasol and Manikaran
The trek will start from the base at Kasol and take you along a beautiful journey through charming forests of pine, nestling valleys, sparkling streams of the river and cosy camps under a gorgeous blue sky. From Kasol, you will first visit Tosh and then trek to Kheerganga via Rudranag temple. On your way back, stop at Kasol again for rest and meal, and then visit the village of Malana. Within this short itinerary, you will hopefully have a remarkable experience with us which will be worth remembering forever.
How to reach the Kasol
Kasol will be the first stop of the 4-day trek, which can be reached via Bhuntar if you take public transportation or directly in a hired cab. You have to reach Kasol on your own, so you can avail any of the following modes of transport.
Travelling by road is the most common practice to reach Bhuntar. You have to start from Delhi, which is 481 km away and takes nearly 12 hours, or from Chandigarh, which is 240 km away and takes 7 hours. If you hire a cab, then you can arrive right at Kasol without having to stop at Bhuntar. You can also stop at the roadside Dhabas at your will to enjoy meals and tea breaks along the journey.
But in the case of public transportation, which is obviously cheaper, Bhuntar will be your first stop. There are both private and HRTC Volvo buses leaving from ISBT bus stops in Delhi (Kashmir Gate) and Chandigarh. The Volvos leave in the evening from Delhi and late at night from Chandigarh, so the travellers can reach Bhuntar at around 6-7 AM the next morning. From Bhuntar, there are local bus routes that pass via Kasol to Manikaran Sahib or Barshaini. Hop onto one of these buses to reach Kasol which is the base camp for your trek.
Bhuntar has an airport which is 31 km away from Kasol, but it has limited connectivity and expensive flights with long durations. If you are coming from another part of the country and want to travel by airway exclusively, then it would be wise to land at Delhi or Chandigarh and then take another flight to Bhuntar.
The nearest major railhead is at Pathankot, but it is 150 km away from Kasol. Joginder Nagar railway station is closer in distance, 124 km away. From both the places you can get cabs for Kasol.
Day 1: Arrival at Kasol and trekking to Chalal village via Manikaran
- Arrive at Kasol
- Check-in at hostel/homestay
- Altitude of 5,182 ft (1580 metres)
- Gain altitude up to 5774 ft (1760 metres) at Manikaran
- Visit Manikaran Sahib and Chalal village
- Trek for 4.5 km
- Night stay at Kasol
Early morning on the first day of the trek, you will be arriving at Kasol via Bhuntar. You can have your breakfast at Bhuntar before setting off for Kasol. At Kasol, you will be checked in by our representative at your respective place of lodging. There are many homestays and small hostels around Kasol perfect for accommodation. After a bit of rest and freshening up, take a hike around the quaint village of Kasol to explore a couple of local destinations. The main two locations to be covered are Manikaran and Chalal village.
Manikaran is a centre of a pilgrimage around an hour’s trek uphill from Kasol. It is sacred to both Hindus and Sikhs, as it has several shrines of Rama, Krishna, Shiva, and Vishnu, as well as the famous Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara. There are many legends involved with the place, stemming from both Hindu and Sikh mythologies. Other than spirituality, Manikaran is also famous for its healing properties. It is known for the numerous hot springs here that make way through the stones and boulders. The springs have no sulphur and are known for curing bodily ailments. The food served out by the Gurudwara langar here is often cooked in the hot waters.
From Manikaran, trek for around 10 minutes to reach the beautiful hamlet of Chalal. Known for its weed production and party-culture, Chalal is also perfect for a serene trek through pine forests and winding roads, and a suspension bridge over the gushing waters of Parvati. Spend some time here taking in the beauty of the place and then walk back to Kasol.
Kasol itself is worth exploring a bit, with the streets lined up with street-side restaurants and kitsch cafes serving Israeli food. There is also a flea market ideal for some souvenir shopping. All-in-all, Kasol will remind you of a nameless exotic town with colour splashed everywhere which you might have seen on a travel blog or magazine. But here it is, alive and bustling – all for you to explore.
Day 2: Trek to Tosh via Kalga and Pulga
- Drive from Kasol to Barshaini (16 km) for 1 hour
- Trek from Barshaini to Kalga-Pulga (5 km) for 1 hour 10 minutes
- Trek back to Barshaini and up to Tosh (4 km) for 1 hour 10 minutes
- Gain altitude up to 7874 ft (2400 metres) at Tosh
- Night stay at Tosh camp
On the second day, you will be trekking to the beautiful and exotic location of Tosh. After having breakfast at your Kasol lodging, you will embark on your short drive to Barshaini, located at the confluence of Parvati and Tosh Rivers. The drive will take about an hour. Since you will be trekking for the next two days and then come back to Kasol before leaving for home, you can leave your extra luggage at your hostel or homestay in Kasol for safekeeping. No point in adding weight during the trek.
At Barshaini, there is a bridge over River Parvati. Take right from here to trek to Kalga and Pulga villages. The trail here will be lined by small Himachali huts and shops on both sides. You can expect friendly and fluffy Himalayan dogs to accompany you along the way. Here you will also find grocery stores and can refill water and stock up on dry food. Trekking ahead of Pulga, you will reach the enchanting woods called Fairy Forest. The branches of the tall conifers here touch each other so closely that the azure blue mountain sky is barely visible from below. The ambience here gives you the vibes of a forest from fantasy land, thus justifying its moniker perfectly.
It takes an hour to walk up to Pulga and another to come back down to the temple of Barshaini. From there it is yet another hour of trek to the Tosh camping fields. You will find Tosh to be a potpourri of travellers from around the world having a great time together. Walking around and saving the beautiful scenery around in your mind and your cameras are the main thing to do in Tosh. Like Kasol, several boutique cafes sprinkle the region here as well, where you can enjoy Pahadi cuisine at its best. You can take a walk to the nearby Kutla village for a more intimate glance at the local culture.
Stay the night at a local camping zone or a home stay. Tosh Waterfall Camps are the most popular ones here.
Day 3: Trek to Kheerganga via Rudranag
- Trek from Tosh to Kheerganga (7 km) for 2 hours
- Gain altitude up to 13,051 ft (3,977 metres) at Kheerganga
- Stop at Rudranag temple on the way
- Lunch at on-the-road cafe
- Night stay at Kheerganga camp
On day three, you will be trekking from Tosh to Kheerganga which takes around two hours to reach and another two to come back down. On your way to Kheerganga today, you will pass the village of Nakthan – a quaint Himachali hamlet with wooden hits and colourful cafes. A short distance away is the famous Rudranag temple. The temple is a shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva and gets its name from a serpentine waterfall nearby. From the waterfall, you can fill your water bottles for the next part of the trek.
Next, the trail will take a sharp uphill gradient as you make your way towards Kheerganga. There will be dhabas and cafes on the road for a mid-day meal or lunch. Upon reaching your destination, which is the topmost part of Kheerganga, take some time to take in the stunning beauty of the landscape here. Natural beauty meets mythological legend at this underrated Himalayan trek.
Everyone knows the story of Hindu pantheon where Lord Shiva and Parvati Devi asked their two sons to travel around the world. Being the astute general their elder son Karthikey immediately set off on his journey atop his vehicle, the peacock. But Ganesh, being the wiser, simply circumferences his parents, saying they were his entire world. Impressed, Lord Shiva granted him the blessing ahead of Karthikeya. When the latter came back and saw what had happened, enraged, he left and took refuge at the location of Kheerganga for deep meditation. To take their son home, Lord Shiva and Parvati Devi came here themselves. To convince her son, the goddess made kheer flow from the mountains like a river. From this myth, the place gets its name, Kheerganga.
The legend continues to say that Lord Parshurama evaporated the kheer in the streams ahead of Kalyug to keep men from fighting over it. All that remains of it is the hot water. Kheerganga is indeed known for several hot streams and fountains, many of which are accessible for a quick and relaxing dip. It is said that Shiva himself was so impressed by the location that he himself meditated here for centuries. There is a temple here dedicated to him and this legend.
At Kheerganga, you will be staying in one of the local tents right in the middle of the majestic wilderness. Enjoy your dinner and a good night’s sleep to keep yourself charged for a lot of legwork that awaits you the next day.
Day 4: Come back to Kasol and trek to Malana
- Trek back from Kheerganga to Barshaini (6.1 km) in 1 hour 30 minutes
- Drive from Barshaini back to Kasol
- Lunch at Kasol
- Drive to Malana Nallah in the car from Kasol (20 km) in 1 hour
- Trek from Malana Nallah to Malana village in 1 hour
- Return to Kasol and night stay
After breakfast, trek down the same route via Rudranag and Nakthan, but this time keep walking down towards Barshaini. Take this opportunity to take some more pictures of the excellent vista Himalaya presents here. At Barshaini, your ride will wait to take you back to Kasol. Have your lunch and take some rest at Kasol. After that, get on the car yet again for an excursion to Malana.
The two-hour drive will take you via Jari and drop you off at Malana Nallah. From there, it is an hour’s trek up to the main village. Malana, near Pin Valley, is known for its pristine landscape and the world-famous hashish called Malana cream. But the most unique thing about Malana is the other-worldly ambience the village soaks itself in.
The residents of the village believe themselves to be the descendants of the army soldiers of Alexander the Great who stayed back when he attacked India in the Before-Christ era. Their administration is presumably run by their unshaken faith in the local deity, Jamblu Devta, under the supervision of an eleven-member council. They have their own laws and rules and do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Indian government as such, which is probably why the cultivation of marijuana is so widespread. Modernity and science-based education have not really reached this offbeat village, and the people believe in several superstitions unheard of anywhere else in the country.
Spend some quality time here to explore the oddities of Malana. But be aware of not crossing the limit as a visitor. The villages are very strict about outsider intervention. They consider themselves superior owing to the superior Aryan ancestry that they believe in, and thus it is not allowed to have physical contact with any resident of the village. They are friendly to speak and to photography, but they will not participate in the hand-to-hand exchange.
After you are done roaming around, trek back down to where you were dropped off. You will be driven back to Kasol for dinner and night’s stay. You can visit the local Kasol market at night if you want to do some last-minute shopping.
Day 5: Check-out and return
- Check-out after breakfast
- Have a safe journey back home
Leave with heart-warming and lovely memories of Kasol-Tosh-Malana-Kheerganga trek as you leave for home after breakfast. Be prepared to leave by the check-out time of your lodging and have a safe trip back to Delhi or Chandigarh. You can avail similar transports back via Bhuntar as you did while coming.
Wishing you a great trekking experience!