Never trekked before? Planning to trek with children? Kheerganga trek is one of the best Himalayan treks for beginners and children. Here’s our story and a complete guide to Kheerganga trek in Parvati Valley to plan yours judiciously 🙂
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How I wish my parents had introduced me to trekking when I was young. Anyhow, I didn’t want to repeat the mistake and thus, introduced my daughter to the trekking world as soon as she felt comfortable about the whole concept. I believe trekking/hiking is a great way to develop confidence, patience, perseverance, and a sense of responsibility in children. It’s magical the way even one trekking experience changes and shapes the kids. Introduce your children to this unparallel sport and watch as my words become your reality.
A COMPLETE GUIDE TO KHEERGNAGA TREK FOR THE FIRST-TIMERS
I enjoyed my first trek to Kheeganga with hubby and daughter so much so that thought of sharing my experience plus some tips to inspire people to trek with kids. Read on to know how we managed to trek Kheerganga in one day with our 8-year-old daughter and how you can do it too.
Located in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, Parvati Valley starts above Bhunter where the Parvati River meets the River Beas and goes eastwards all the way up to Mantalai Lake (source of Parvati River.) The valley is utterly beautiful that it moves your soul. Kasol, Manikaran, Malana, Chalal, Tosh, Rasol, Katagala, Pulga, and, Kalga are some of the lovely villages in Parvati Valley.
KASOL – MINI-ISRAEL OF HIMACHAL PRADESH
I had been reading about Kasol a lot and the place attracted me for its varied culture, cuisine and abundant natural beauty. Kasol is famous among backpackers and people who love to stay high (Charas or Marijuana). The place offers a fabulous blend of Israeli culture, quaint landscapes, and unspoiled nature. Though Kasol is not a great destination for a family holiday, however, you can’t deny the gratification you get in doing something out of the ordinary. There’s a beauty in the unusual!
HOW TO REACH KASOL FROM DELHI
Kasol is best traveled by road because who wants to miss the exquisite views. One can self-drive or hire a cab. Catching a private bus/Volvo from Majnu Ka Tila or Rama Krishna Ashram Metro Station in Delhi or HRTC Himsuta Volvo from ISBT Kashmiri Gate is also a good option, however, you need to get down at Bhuntar if you are coming by bus and catch another one to Kasol/Manikaran/Barshaini depending upon where you have booked your stay. The Volvos depart in the late evening mostly.
DELHI TO KASOL – A BEAUTIFUL DRIVE
I planned the 4 days itinerary covering Kasol, Katagala, Manikaran, Malana, Chalal, Tosh and Barshiani (Watch out for my next blog post about these places). Kheerganga trek was out of the question. I and hubby didn’t have any trekking experience and we were sure that it’s next to impossible with our little daughter who can’t even walk up to nearby market without complaining about her leg pain.
We drove to Kasol from Delhi via Chandigarh. It’s around 530 km and took us 14 hours via NH44.
Almost 14-hour journey from Delhi to Kasol was incredible wherein we witnessed two prodigious rivers (Beas and Parvati) snuggled between the Himalayas. Beas River accompanied us all through the journey from Mandi to Aut tunnel and once we crossed the Aut tunnel, Parvati River became our constant companion. The highlight of our road journey was driving through the 3 km long Aut tunnel, which is one of the longest road tunnels in India.
PLACES TO STAY IN KASOL
Parvati Kuteer on the bank of Parvati River was our home for the next 4 days in Kasol. A wooden cottage covered by Cedar trees and lovely garden, offering the views of the snow-covered Himalayas and overlooking the gushing Parvati river – Ah! Imagine what happens when the sound of the river becomes the alarm clock! You won’t ever snooze! We found Parvati Kuteer to be one of the lovely stay options in Kasol.
Book your stay at Parvati Kuteer here.
Parvati Kuteer is expensive? Kasol has a lot of the budget stay options as well. Check here.
KHEERGANGA TREK – A TREK TO REMEMBER
It was not planned. How can it be? I mean with an 8-year-old child, nobody would want to trek 13-15 km one-sided and certainly not to a place like Kheerganga infamous (or famous) for its own reasons. But it happened! We trekked up to Kheerganga and trekked down to Barshaini on the same day with our little daughter. Rest is history!
KHEERGANGA TREK IN PARVATI VALLEY- HOW WE PLANNED THE UNPLANNED
All the places in our itinerary were covered in 3 days and 4th day was left free intentionally because what better way to enjoy the nature than just sitting by the river surrounded by the mountains and tall Deodar trees. But destiny had its own plans that didn’t match with ours.
My daughter curiously questioned,” why can’t we take on Kheerganga trek?” I explained the difficulty level to her and how it’s inappropriate for her age. She announced that she wants to experience it, maybe 2-3 km trek and then come back. I was apprehensive and scared. We enquired about the trek with the natives and they felt that it’s pretty conceivable. It was, of course, their version based on their own stamina and experience.
KASOL TO BARSHAINI
Barshaini, the starting point of Kheerganga trek is around 17 km from Kasol.
We had our own car and driver. One can either take a taxi or cab from Kasol to Barshaini or opt for a budget-friendly bus ride.
So, our plan was to trek up to Kalga village, relax, have tea and snacks and come down.
PLACES TO STAY IN BARSHAINI
Barshaini is quite a small village with no or few stay options. You might be able to find a few homestays in Barshaini. Tosh is just 3 km uphill from Barshaini and can be chosen as a base for the night as it offers all kinds of accommodations ranging from homestay, guesthouses to hotels.
KHEERGANGA TREK DISTANCE
The distance from Barshaini to Kheerganga is around 13-15 km depending upon the route you take.
BEST TIME TO TAKE ON KHEERGANGA TREK
The best time to visit Kheerganga is during the summer or autumn season. Best months include May, June, September, and October.
KHEERGANGA TREK DIFFICULTY LEVEL
As I said it’s a relatively easy trek and can be easily done with kids. 2960m above sea level, Kheerganga is the best trek for beginners.
BARSHAINI TO KHEERGANGA – ROUTE OPTIONS
There are two routes to reach Kheerganga from Barshaini:
1. Through Nakthan/Rudranag (13 km) – Difficult to climb, easier to come down and offers ravishing views (ideal for photography enthusiasts). It has fewer trees and vegetation; more of tiny hamlets on the way so a bit exhaustive during bright sunny days.
2. Through Kalga (15 km) – Easier to climb, difficult to descend. Thick vegetation and dense forests make it best suited for bright sunny days. This is a lesser-known route and people generally avoid it for there are chances of losing way due to dense forests. Ideal for first-timers and low on stamina trekkers like us 🙂
TOSH TO KHEERGANGA – YES, THAT’S ALSO AN OPTION
Tosh is a beautiful hamlet which is known to be the last village in Parvati Valley. A narrow road from Barshaini near the Parvati Hydel Project diverges to Tosh village. One can drive up to the village which is utterly bumpy or can opt to walk which takes around 45 minutes to reach the village of Tosh. You are rewarded with some amazing views of the Parvati Valley once you reach Tosh. You can spend a day in Tosh relaxing while admiring the stunning views of glittering snow-capped peaks as the first and last rays of sun fall on them. The mountains look vivacious in moonlight too. There are decent guesthouses and homestays in Tosh.
The route to Kheerganga from Tosh joins the same Rudranag route once you cross the village of Nakthan.
PLACES TO STAY IN TOSH
Tosh treats you with the best views of Parvati Valley. You are sure to get a room with a view here. You look out of your window and view of the snow-clad mountain peaks enveloped by green pine trees fill your senses. Though the stay options in Tosh are not many so better book in advance. Check here the list of properties in Tosh for availability and prices.
KALGA VILLAGE – A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
We obviously took the Kalga route. around 30 minutes trek lead us to Kalga and we were stunned by the beauty of this quaint little village emitting the serenity every one of us craves for these days. We sat at the local cafe and sipped on hot tea while our daughter enjoyed Maggi with breathtaking views. People of Kalga were welcoming and cheerful. They encouraged us to trek to Kheerganga with our daughter as according to them it was not wise to leave such a beautiful place unexplored when you are so close to it.
PLACES TO STAY IN KALGA / KALGHA (SOSAN)
If you are looking for a much quieter place than Kasol or Tosh to stay, you can find many beautiful stay options in Kalga. Kalga is one of the most beautiful villages sprinkled across Parvati Valley. It’s actually a dope! A sleepy hamlet where time stands still. The Himalayas, apple orchards, lush meadows, and vibrant flowers – do you need any other thing to be happy?
Holy Cow Café And Beds, Sacred Garden, Brahma Homestay, and, Red Apple Cottage Homestay are some of the places to stay in Kalga. They are perfect for solo-travelers though can be good for family travelers who love mountains more than comfort and luxury.
With so many homestays coming up in Kalga, I doubt it will remain as clean or offbeat as it is now. I guess then travelers will head to Pulga and Tulga for much-needed peace.
With no arrangement for the journey ahead and little kid with us, it was eerie. We only had a light backpack with a bottle of water and an extra pair of clothes for our daughter. Water, food, and accommodation weren’t a problem though because there were plenty of cafes on the way to Kheerganga and numerous places to stay at Kheerganga. The problem was the journey. With so many questions unanswered, we resigned to our daughter’s will and continued our journey to Kheerganga from Kalga.
It seemed easy at the start with open grounds and lush green forests until we crossed a bridge made of wood logs. The Kheerganga trek became more demanding after 5 km walk. We made it a point to ask for the right way at every cafe on the way so that we don’t lose our way. There were fallen trees and rocks on the way and it became scary as we proceeded further.
And then came this warning! It scared the hell out of us! We were more cautious.
RAIN GODS ADDED TO OUR VENTURE – (ADD)VENTURE
As if that wasn’t enough, it started raining heavily. Tracks became muddy and increasingly difficult creating slippery walking conditions. We regretted and blamed ourselves for bringing our daughter here unprepared (no raincoats or ponchos). There were no kids, no families on the way; Only boys’ gangs (typical backpackers and seasoned trekkers) and sadhus (saints). I’m still getting goosebumps while I’m writing about it. Few boys on the way warned us not to go further as it’s not safe in this kind of weather and there are only hippies at the Kheerganga. But it was too late to move back as we had already trekked more than half the distance.
We took shelter in a tent on the way and waited until the rain eased off. A British couple waited with us in the same tent and having a chit-chat with them relaxed us. We started again while it was drizzling continuously. It took us 5 hours to complete the trek, however, locals and cafe owners whom we met on the way reached Kheerganga in less than 2 hours. Imagine the stamina these Himalayan guys have. They trek up and down every other day without any exhaustion and fuss.
We drank water from the waterfalls on the way to Kheerganga and believe me, I have never tasted the water with such a sweet and delicate flavor, full of oxygen, naturally cold and digestible. It felt heavenly. We have traveled in India and abroad; experienced so many things but for the first time in my life, I literally realized that journey is more important and beautiful than the destination. It’s absolutely a beautiful trek where physical pain or exhaustion feels like a breeze. Once we were at Kheerganga, we forgot the stress of the journey and soaked in the other-worldly views of the dream-like surroundings. Lush green meadows, clouds descending down to the valley, natural hot water spring surrounded by the snow-covered Himalayas. Would you ask for more?
How one feels? Serendipity. Euphoria. Virgin nature makes you high, yeah, high on happiness and Shiva temple at the top makes you high on spirituality. Felt close to mother nature and to God at the same time. I was speechless as I entered the temple of Lord Shiva which holds a great religious significance.
LEGENDS OF KHEERGANGA
There are two different legends that explain the origin of Kheerganga – One says that Lord Shiva meditated here for thousands of years and another says that Kartikeya, son of Lord Shiva and Parvati meditated here and the natural spring emerged when Shiva struck the ground with His Trishul on Parvati’s request as she was worried that her son wouldn’t get anything to eat here. This spring was kheer ( Indian sweet dish made of milk and rice) in Satyuga (Golden Age) which was later turned into the water during Kalyuga (Iron Age) by Shiva on Parshuram’s insistence.
Whatever it is, Kheerganga is certainly a miracle, water as white as milk, flowing in all its glory and its streams gushing into Parvati valley. Bath in the sulfur-rich hot water spring is so relaxing and healing.
There are two sub-sections of the pool – one for the men and the other for the women. It’s believed that drinking the water from the spring cures all kinds of gastric diseases and taking bath in it washes all your sins. We, like everyone, filled our bottles with the holy water to bring it back home.
KHEERGANGA TREK – HOW WE UNPLAN THE PLANNED
The original plan was to book a camp or room and stay overnight at Kheerganga which changed later on taking into account certain factors not suitable for kids. There were no decent and clean places to stay and eat with kids and the weather was really bad. And remember, we weren’t prepared! We had to take a leap of faith.
It was 3:40 p.m. Calculations indicated that if we walk continuously without taking longer breaks, we would reach Barshaini by 8 p.m. It takes comparatively lesser time to trek down.
PLACES TO STAY IN KHEERGANGA
The stay options aren’t many for families traveling with kids. There are private rooms, tented accommodations, common spaces like dormitories for a group of travelers and a dharmshala/ashram at cheap prices but I didn’t find them good enough to stay with kids. They are fine for backpackers though. There’s also an option to pitch your own tent by renting a space at Kheerganga after paying a minimal amount of fee. Shared toilets and washrooms are available but not hygienic for obvious reasons.
PLACES TO EAT IN KHEERGANGA
Kheerganga has cafes and small restaurants with basic food options. The food is over-priced because well you are sitting and eating at the height of 2960m. You know, how does the food get to the top!
UPDATE ON KHEERGANGA TREK*
According to the latest news update; the cafes, restaurants and accommodation facilities (commercial activities) including camping have been banned in Kheerganga. You can still trek up to Kheerganga after getting a permit from the forest department. The permission will be granted if you fulfill certain conditions – No camping allowed so you need to complete the trek the same day and No littering. Please carry your garbage along. The step is really appreciated owing to the damage caused to the ecologically sensitive region. It’s high time we as travelers choose responsible and sustainable travel practices.
HOW WE TREKKED DOWN TO BARSHAINI FROM KHEERGANGA
We started trekking down with our fingers crossed. We took the Rudranag route while coming down because it was told that the route is shorter and less steep than the Kalga one.
Trek starts with walking through the thick pine forests and then suddenly landscapes change into fields and villages once you cross an iron bridge over the raging stream.
One of the fascinating, exhilarating and worth-mentioning features of Kheerganga trek is that the rumbling water stream and mighty waterfalls flow all through the trek.
We crossed several streams on foot. The thunderous sound of the water reveals the dangerously beautiful side of nature. It was scary and soothing at the same time. We really felt small in the face of nature. The trail gets narrower as one progresses further. We stopped at Rudranag temple to offer our prayers. A waterfall was coming down from the mountaintop with evident snake-like shape and thus the name, Rudranag. People were taking a dip in the water near the waterfall but it was too cold to handle for us. We moved further as it was getting dark.
Small villages on the way attract you to stop and admire the beauty in simplicity. Villagers are so simple, helpful and cheery. One of the ladies at Nakthan village greeted and offered us to rest in her house for some time when she saw our tired little daughter but we politely turned down the offer saying we can’t afford to take a break. She blessed and applauded our daughter.
Kids coming back from the school, women bringing wood in a basket on their shoulders, people chit-chatting randomly; I felt like spending my life here! That’s how life’s supposed to be! A life so uncomplicated bereft of the harshness of the modern world.
KHEERGANGA TREK – THE FINAL PHASE
4 km left, dog-tired, legs refused to move, almost vanquished, a mountain kid boosted our spirits. He moved gracefully from one stone to the other, swinging on the narrow paths, singing Himachali songs, no trace of panic; obviously, it was a routine thing for him. We were re-energized by the positive assurance,“Bas thoda sa aur chalna hai! Bas 20 minute aur aap neeche pahunch jayenge.” (it’s just 20 more minutes and you’ll be down) and carefree attitude of the boy. We happily followed him.
It was dark when we reached Barshiani. Our driver was waiting for us. Amazed at what we have accomplished (technically, we walked more than 25 km in a day), we retired and slept in the car while coming back to our resort in Kasol.
What had we gained? Well. We rediscovered ourselves. We really felt true intimacy with God. The trek rekindled our connection with nature.
You never know what you are capable of until you have no choice. If given an option, I wouldn’t want to return to this false world of self-gratification and remorseful judgments. The trek left me with a lot to reflect on.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
1. It’s better to start a trek early in the morning maybe 6 am or so because it normally rains after 2 making it difficult to walk.
2. Carry light backpacks with a pair of flip-flops, torch or headlight, light towel, poncho or raincoat, warm jacket, swimwear, travel soap, toilet paper, tissues, snacks, eco-friendly water bottle, and cash.
3. I would have recommended to not trek up and down from Kheerganga on the same day as I found it pretty risky and tiring especially with a kid. One would better chill and enjoy the fairy-tale-like surroundings for a day but as per new update, you can’t stay up there. So, come back to Tosh and stay there. Head to Kasol the next morning.
4. Last but not least, Respect nature. Be a responsible traveler and tourist. Don’t throw your trash anywhere. You’ll find dustbins at all the cafes on the way. Carry all the disposable waste in your bag and dump into a dustbin later. Don’t spoil the serenity of nature by being a glamorous tourist.
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This was our first ever trekking experience. Have you ever tried trekking with kids? How was your experience?
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