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Kalga: Heaven on Earth One Step from the Sky

Enjoy a shanti vibe at 2300 meters with the world’s highest peaks, old villages frozen in time, and myriads of colors in India's northernmost state, Himachal Pradesh.

The top of the Sun Temple and a cloudy sky

by Alessandro Ramazzotti

15 de sept de 2023

If you are traveling to the north of India and want to enjoy the beauty of the Himalayas, while avoiding the crowds of Manali and prefer a calmer destination, then you should definitely check out the Parvati Valley!

Don’t be afraid of the roads that become thinner the more the altitude rises, nor of the rallying, colorful buses. Let your inner adventurer come out and leave the comfort of society for at least a few days… you will not regret it!

How to get there

After the bus from Delhi reaches Kasol, do not follow the crowds of tourists to one of the many hotels in town. Wait instead for a local bus to take you deeper into the valley; closer to the peaks; and even further away from the noise and pollution.

The bus will take you to Barshaini, from where you’ll have to walk the remaining three or so kilometers to reach Kalga, across the river, and up the hill for about 20 minutes.

If you reach Barshaini at lunch time, please yourself with a Himachali delicacy: the siddu! It is a soft steamed bread, stuffed with a cream of vegetables and walnuts. Shower it with melted ghee and bite, but careful: after the first siddu ends, saying no to a second one is hard.

Kalga and its Kutla (upper village)

The quiet vibe of Kalgha is soothing for the soul, and you will feel the civilized world as an incredibly far-away place.

There are no roads in the village; just paths leading to the houses or fields, where cows and sheep calmly graze, and people care about their apple trees. Indeed, Kalga was where the crops of the nearby, older village of Pulga once were, but nowadays it is becoming an increasingly attractive tourist spot, and construction sites are blooming here and there. You can recognize the older houses by the amount of rust on their tin roofs.

Packs of monkeys live in the forest above, and if you walk towards Kutla (15 minutes up the mountain from the Nepali market of Kalga), you will probably see them. If you’re lucky, at dusk, you might also see one or more Indian giant flying squirrels jumping – actually, flying – from one tree to another.

In Kutla, there is a very pleasant spot where you can stop for a chai or a snack while you enjoy the magical landscape around – with the Parvati Valley descending on one side, and snowy peaks rising on the other. Bharat, the guesthouse owner, is the only inhabitant of Kutla and a very good company, who can tell you about the interesting traditions of this area.

The Sun Temple stair and people walking up and down

Kutla's Pinehouse Cafe Photo by Alessandro Ramazzotti

Where to stay

In Kalga, a very recommended stay is Gypsy House – the tandoori room, as well as the friendly atmosphere of the place will make you feel at home and never want to leave again.

If you have a sweet tooth, not far from there you can have a bite at the French bakery (from a real French baker!). If you need to use the WiFi, you can check out Eva Orchard – their service is really good.

If you want a fancier – and costlier – stay, check out the guesthouses around the Nepali market. In the latter, located at the entrance of the village, you can also find places to eat and buy basic stuff you might need during your stay.

Kalga and its surroundings

The nature around the village is like a painting of Eden: green fields, snowy peaks, colored houses of the surrounding villages, grazing animals, and quiet farmers. During your stay, you can enjoy this all while taking walks to the surrounding villages, and reach the famous Kheerghanga Pass if you like hiking.

  • Tosh: the most famous village in the upper Parvati Valley, and the most remote as well. It is more touristically developed than Kalga, and about one hour and a half from it. It is good to have a walk there, to enjoy a change of perspective on the mountains and enjoy different views. Moreover, the old stone paths and roofs in the village will make you dive into an ancient Himalayan past.

  • Pulga: this village is a bit less than an hour away from Kalga. Even though you can see it and it will look quite near, in order to reach it you will need to walk down to the river and then up again to the village. It is not a difficult hike though, no worries. Pulga’s colorful houses and tiny roads will definitely cheer you up, even on a rainy day.

  • Kheerghanga Trek: the most popular trek in the Parvati Valley, which leads up to the Kheerghanga Pass, where you can find hot springs that are sacred for Hindus – because Shiva was apparently wandering about there during his lonely peregrinations in the mountains. The trek itself is nice, but quite crowded (especially on weekends) and at the Pass, you can find accommodations, food, and even WiFi! However, all of this is more expensive than down in the valley, so if possible, bring your own provisions.

The Taj Mahal and people

The mountains surrounding the village Photo by Alessandro Ramazzotti

Last tips

Given the altitude of the village, it might be cold at night even in the summer – which is the reason why Indian tourists escape Delhi and its unbearable summer heat to find refuge in the Parvati Valley. Make sure to have at least a sweatshirt with you, and more depending on the season. A check of the weather forecast is always a good idea before you venture up the valley.

When you are in Barshaini, make sure to check the bus timetable. There are frequent buses that go down the valley, but if you have a plane to catch or another destination to reach, you definitely don’t want to walk until Barshaini to find out you have to walk back.

More and more foreigners are choosing Kalga and the surrounding villages to relocate from their countries. Be aware that you might also be bewitched by the place, and leaving it might be difficult.

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