Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kasol: Hell of a trip!

I and my wife were planning to go to Kasol since a couple of years. The first time I heard about Kasol was from a colleague. He never stopped taking about how beautiful this place was.

Finally in August 2011, we decided to utilize the extended weekend around the 15th and made the reservations for travel and stay. We boarded the bus from Delhi in the evening at 1800 hours and were en-route. We have gone on this route earlier as well to Manali so there was nothing new about it until 0630 hours next day. We were somewhere near Sundernagar and the bus halted there for more than an hour now. It was 0800 hours and the passengers including us were getting antsy.

The driver was not telling us anything and then all of a sudden, he broke the news to us "it rained heavily the whole night and a bridge was broken because of the flood about 4 kms from the place where the bus is standing."

All the excitement went for a hookazoonga. What do we do now? The options we had were to take the same bus back to Delhi or stay in a hotel until the bridge was rebuilt. We enquired with the locals and they said it a common thing and would clear in a couple of days if the rain God permits. We just let this moment pass and decided to take on things as they come. In the mean while, first things first, breakfast. We ordered a series of paranthas and then a cup of tea. The weather was very nice. It was sort of foggy and drizzling. Just then we found a wine shop next to the dhaba. We went there and enquired about the available flavors. The guy had wine made from every fruit that I could think of. He had apple, pomegranate, rose, jamun (Java Plum), and of course grapes. I am sure I am forgetting many. We paid INR 180 for a rose flavored bottle and packed it for future use. :)

After some more looking around, we started getting restless and were wondering what to do. It was already 12:00 noon and there was no news of bridge repair. The driver said, "the bus on the other side will start at 1800 hours in the evening and the best thing that could happen is the exchange of passengers near the bridge." But it was very risky. The river was flowing above the danger level.

Then we started speaking with the locals and asked if there was a possibility to arrange for a transport to Kasol. The guy at the dhaba told us that a cab can be arranged and with a slight de-tour, it can take us to Kasol by the sunset. This sounded like music to our ears. We asked for the costing and agreed with a total of INR 2000 for a cab to take us to Kasol.

The guy arranged for a Scorpio and assured us of the destination. We started by 1300 hours and were passing through villages, more villages and then the scene that came in front of my eyes was shocking.

We saw a huge line of vehicles in front of us and as we went ahead the water level was rising. After a few meters, we saw water flooding the roads as if there was no road at all! The villagers were out and were helping the vehicles pass through that road. The sound of water was scary and the trip had started its bend towards becoming a high adrenaline gushing adventure. The last car in front of us crossed and then it was us. Had it been any other vehicle, we would not have been able to cross this flooded route. After crossing the road, we were told that it was a 10 meters deep bridge that we crossed and the water level had risen because of cloud burst. And to our despair, the locals told us that there were more such overflowing bridges on the way we were heading.

We continued on the route and came across more such crossings. One thing I have to mention is that the route was extremely scenic and we were enjoying our adventure.

At around 1700 hours, we were in Mandi. Still there was a significant distance to cover before dark. Just then we saw another jam that was running into kilometers. We were told that there were major landslide on the way to Kasol and people were stuck in patches of road. We were near the most commercial part of Mandi and decided to halt there for the night. We took a hotel and asked the driver to pick us the next day for Kasol.

The hotel was very nice and we got the river facing room. Luckily the last room left for the night. We had to call the resort in Kasol regarding the delay and mentioned that we would be arriving the next day by noon. It was all set for the time being. We were hungry and went to the hotel's cafe to have dinner. The food served was superb. With all the journey in the past 24+ hours we crashed into the bed.
Hotel in Mandi

View from balcony
The next day another driver came with an Innova and we started the final leg of our journey to Kasol. There were several landslides on our way and it took us around 4 hours to cover ~90 kms. On the way, we saw some amazing scenes, apple plantations, beautiful valleys, temples, waterfalls, bridges, snow capped peaks, and so many S-curves on the mountain. There was this one specific landslide that I cannot forget. There was the bulldozer in the middle of the road sliding away the dirt into the valley. It was hell of a sight!

We reached Kasol and then started looking for our resort. We stayed at The Alpine, one of the finest in Kasol. The resort is located at the bank of the Parvati River. The weather was amazing and we decided to take a walk around. After a quick tour around, we came back to the resort for some snacks. We were right at the bank of the river with a cup of coffee and pizza slices. The scene was just amazing. The river was flowing with full vigor, only to go up. There were some more cloud bursts up in the mountains and it was all visible/audible in the noise made by the river. We could feel the river roar all throughout the place.

There is another place just next to Kasol, Manikaran. It is a pilgrimage center for Hindus and Sikhs located in the Parvati Valley between the rivers Beas and Parvati. It has hot water springs and huge artificial baths are made around the holy place.

We took a walk to Manikaran and it turned out to be a very beautiful experience. It was drizzling and there was fog, deep valleys, thin bridges, more and more mountains and of course the river all the way. There was a temple on the way as well.

After a quick visit to the gurudwara we came back to the main market to shop and eat. Some of the local shops have good woolen collection and one can also buy some souvenirs. We did some shopping and had some food. The restaurants serve very mouth-watering food

Now, for the most important part of Kasol. It is a place where you will find a lot of foreigners who stay there for months. On the road side there are bushes that are known for their "medicinal properties" (if you know what I mean). It was a sight to see these simple looking plants and what they could ultimately result in (dum maro dum). It was a common sight to spot someone plucking leaves from these bushes.

It is highly recommended that you travel there with cash in your pocket as there is a scarcity of ATMs. Based on my travel experiences into the mountains, this goes for all hilly regions. There are ATMs, but mostly out of cash.

Now for the next part, coming back. After spending two nights in Kasol, we had to take the bus in the evening. We enquired about the schedule and came to know that the bus has been delayed and would operate the next day as there were many landslides on the route. Moreover it was raining since the last 24 hours and hence the road from Kasol to Bhuntar (place where we would be boarding the bus) was also blocked because of massive landslides. We had to extend our stay in Kasol by a night (lucky us, we got another day in the valley).

As suggested by the bus operator, we started the next morning in a cab for Bhuntar. The driver told us that he will only be able to drive for around 15 kms as there was a landslide and until it was cleared, no vehicles could go forward. There were lines of buses, tempos, cars waiting for the past 24 hours. Surprisingly, the guys on motorbikes were climbing the landslides and crossing it. At this point, we left the cab.

We were on foot and started walking towards Bhuntar. We had to cover about 12 kms from the point our driver dropped us. We were enjoying the walk and were just mesmerized at the power of nature. I saw the some of biggest landslides. There were some, where the entire mountain came on the road. Still the guys on motorbikes were crossing it.

Although it was pleasant and we were climbing downhill, some tiredness started to creep in. We were still quite some distance from Bhuntar. We continued.

There came a very scary landslide. It was as if the entire mountain was flowing like a waterfall. It was a stream of mud gushing across the road. After crossing it somehow, we came to a conclusion that we should avoid going to mountains during or immediately after the rainy season. Just then, we got lucky and another gang of bikers were passing by and they offered us a lift. After about another 6-7 kms on the bike, we approached a FINALE landslide, which just seemed impossible to cross. I helped the guys in crossing it and then they stayed there to help others. We had to catch a bus so we left after thanking the guys.

After this point there was no other landslide and public transport was available until Bhuntar. We took a Trax and reached the boarding point. It was almost the time for the bus. I enquired about it only to realize that the bus will not leave until the next morning as there was another cloud burst near Manali. So after all this exercise, we had to stay overnight at Bhuntar. We decided to explore the place. Not many know that there is an airport in Bhuntar and there are flights to Delhi from there. The bus finally came the next day at 1000 hours. This was also not the end. The bus took an amazing 22 hours to reach Gurgaon against the normal time of 12 hours.

Finally, we were back from a trip that we never thought would become this adventurous.

Best time to visit: Avoid the monsoon season (July/August), rest all the months are good. I am recommending not to visit in July/August period because of heavy landslides on this route. 

Best way to get there: Reach Delhi, take a bus/Volvo from ISBT to Manali; Get down at Bhuntar, take a local transport to Kasol

Please share your experiences if you have been there.


  1. I really liked your blog post and Thanks for sharing such beautiful pictures. When it comes to Kasol hotels, you have the option of renting a river-side hotel where the windows and balconies open up to the mountains and the view of River Parvati.

  2. Thanks Anjali. I am glad you liked this.

  3. Well, good Info the the new travelers visiting towards. Himachal.


  4. Nice post.. and good info for the travellers :)

  5. Kasol is such a wonderful places to Visit in Himachal.... Especially Malana Village is my best tourist destination.

    1. Add Tosh and neighboring areas to the list. the entire Parvati valley is simply beautiful