Kalga to Kheerganga via Bunbuni Pass– Offbeat in Parvati Valley

When I was in Kalga in Parvati valley, I had almost decided to not go for the famous Kheerganga trek because almost every local and traveler I met talked about Kheerganga. As you might already know I don’t like going to the most visited places. This arrogance to avoid the touristy destinations further deepens when it comes to trekking.

The idea of hiking for me translates to strapping a small backpack on my back and then setting off into the forest and figuring out my way on the go. Sometimes I don’t even care if the trail takes me anywhere significant or if I am on a must-do hike as long as I am in nature.

The boisterous young boys trekking in Parvati Valley who told each other that they completed trekking Kheerganga in a couple of hours and they couldn’t have done the same if there was a girl with them further pushed me away from the mainstream hikes towards offbeat paths.

Suggested Read: My experience of hiking an active Chilean volcano – Climbing Volcano Villarrica

When a friendly guy at a supermarket in Kalga, also known as Kalgha, asked me if I wanted to join him and his friends for Bunbuni trek, I agreed. Of course not without first asking him if they carried loudspeakers and rushed towards their destination.

I already knew that Bunbuni — also known as Bhunbhuni or Bun Buni or Boon Booni — is vast open green meadows high up in the Parvati Valley.

Though I mostly travel alone, I jumped at the chance to do an offbeat hike in the Indian Himalayas with a nice group. I needed some company to climb the steep and treacherous trail to Bhunbhuni.

The next day I packed my bags and left early. After spending a few hours in renting sleeping bags, and drinking chai, we were soon on our way from Kalga to Bunbuni pass.

The idea was already up in the air that we might go to Khirganga from Bunbuni. But I didn’t care for I first wanted to see the neon-green pastures of Bhunbhuni I had heard so much about from a few people as a lot of travelers don’t even know about Bunbuni.

Though I enjoyed walking down from Bhunbhuni to Kheerganga later, I liked Bhunbhuni better.

Only a few shepherds live at the top of Bunbuni, we were the only tourists there, and the panoramic views of snow-capped mountains around Bhunbhuni were unbeatable. Kheerganga, also known as or Khirganga or Kheer Ganga, wasn’t as clean and quiet as you expect a mountain in the Himalayas to be.

But we will talk about Khirganga a bit later.

Suggested Read: If you like gorgeous landscapes, do visit Spiti Valley in Himachal.

bunbuni+camping++parvati+valley+himachal+sosan
Flat meadows of Bunbuni.

Kalga to Bunbuni Pass. 

We started the trek to the Bunbuni pass in the forest behind Kalga.

For the first couple of hours of the hike, we trudged up grass-covered mud paths through the dense forest. We were in June, and rain poured over Kalga and the surrounding hills every day.

The hike was steep but that couldn’t stop me from craning my neck to admire the free show of nature. Tall pine and deodar trees stood in line like guards. Spinach-green slopes rolled up the hills like velvety carpets. Horses, sheep, and cow grazed hungrily. The sky shifted colors as quickly as a skeptical chameleon changes her shades.

At a distance, the summits of the Himalayan mountains layered behind each other like crumpled sheets of blue paper. The snow at the top of the peaks looked like if someone had dropped dollops of white color in between a pool of blue.

Another beautiful place in Parvati valley: Shilha village, a place I would have loved if not for the loudspeakers.

kalga+bunbuni+pass+trek+parvati+valley+himachal+pradesh

 

kalgha+bunbuni+way+parvati+valley+himachal+india

 

bunbuni+trek parvati+valley+himachal+pradesh+india

 

kalga+bunbuni+trek+parvati+himachal

 

As we started boasting to each other that we were doing the Bhunbhuni trek on a good weather day, it started raining hard. A hail storm completed the adventure by hitting us hard with sambhar-onion sized ice balls.

Though not many locals or tourists access that path often, we were lucky to find some locals and even a gaddi woman who made fire, and we warmed our shivering selves.

 

kalga+bunbuni+parvati+valley+himachal+pradesh+india

 

The clouds parted after a while, and we continued our hike. The second leg of the journey was comparatively less steep but even more gorgeous. We crossed soft meadows and went up and down hills to finally arrive Bhunbhuni at almost around 6 pm.

If you think about giving up on the trek — Read this and see why we should enjoy the process more than the result.

 

bunbuni+trek+parvati+valley+himachal+india+himalayas

 

bunbuni+hills+parvati+river+himachal+india

 

The sun had started to go down but not without firing up the sky with a golden-orange palette.

Tired from climbing up the whole day, I put my bag aside and laid down for a minute.

The icy mountains that looked far away were now next to us. Lime-green meadows stretched as far as I could see. A few shepherd huts stood next to each other in the pastures. Red-cheeked young gaddi boys ran around finishing the everyday chores while little girls giggled with buffaloes. Lean old men and women wrapped up in Kullu shawls strolled around and talked.

Parvati river flowed somewhere in a distance, but I couldn’t hear her gush anymore. All I could hear was the silence that echoed in the valley.

Recommended Read: Traveling slow in Parvati valley – A Complete guide

 

sunset+bhunbhuni+sosan+parvati+valley+himachal+pradesh+india

 

bunbuni+pass+parvati+valley+himachal+himalayas

 

shepherd+girls+bunbuni+meadows+parvati+valley+himachal+pradesh

 

After playing with a naughty shepherd girl, I cooked simple dal rice in one of the shepherd’s hut. Strong winds almost blew us off the hill a few times, but that didn’t stop us from gathering around the campfire and eating with our hands under the stars.

When the winds started hitting us even more harshly and the temperature dropped, we made our way into the camps we had put up at the edge of the mountain.

 

camping+bhunbhuni+parvati+himachal+himalaya

 

In the morning, Bunbuni was like a tiny village in action. Young boys and girls milked the sleepy cows and buffaloes. Sheep and cattle walked around grazing sheepishly avoiding our group of trespassers. A shepherd man stirred a large steel ladle in a rustic iron wok full of sweet buffalo and cow milk. Later we would lick the khoa that he made over firewood with our cold fingers.

 

shepherd+milking+cow+bunbuni+kheerganga+parvati+valley+himachal+pradesh

shepherds+making+khoya+bunbuni+parvati+valley+himachal+india

 

Walking on misty grass made me sneeze. Someone made chai. The sun didn’t seem to be in the mood to come out, and dark bulbous clouds threatened us from above.

As the group had decided to go to Kheerganga as we were only a few hours away from it and needed to descend rather than climbing up, we packed our bags. Saying goodbyes to the Gaddis I realized that we could never repay them for sharing their homes with us for if not for them we would have starved and frozen in the cold valley.

The little girl with apple-cheeks ran behind me to say goodbye, and I wondered if I would be able to meet her again if I went to Bunbuni again the next year. After all, those shepherd families migrate from Mandi district to Bunbuni every year in the summers.

Suggested Read: Living and hiking in the beautiful village of Bhagsu Nag, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh

 

bunbuni+shepherds+huts+parvati+valley+sosan+himachal

 

Bunbuni to Kheerganga.

If we knew that the way from Bhunbhuni to Kheerganga is a steep downhill, most of us whose legs were crackling would have considered going back to Kalga. And maybe a few would have gone from Kalga to Kheerganga later.

But oblivious of what was to come on the way to Kheerganga, we went with the flow and strode on in the stunning Parvati.

We sauntered through more meadows, drank chai with generous shepherds, hung out with Gaddis whose sheep grazed on near utopia hills, minced on treacherous glaciers, plodded our way up vertical hills, and fell flat on our faces on sodden buffalo paths running downhill.

 

trek+from+bunbuni+kheerganga+parvati+valley+himachal+pradesh Kheerganga trek blogs

 

from+bunbuni+to+kheer+ganga+parvati+valley+himachal+pradesh+india.
Kheerganga trek route from Bunbuni.

 

glacier+on+way+bunbuni+kheerganga+trek+parvati+valley+himachal+pradesh

 

bhunbhuni+trekking+khirganga+parvati pics himachal+pradesh
The glacier that we crossed. On way from Bunbuni to Khirganga. Parvati valley.

 

When we arrived at Kheerganga in almost five hours, we ran straight away to the natural hot baths that Khir Ganga is famous for.

Mythological stories trace back Kheerganga history to a time when Karthikeyan, the eldest son of Shiva and Parvati, meditated in the caves in Kheerganga. Seeing her son starving, Parvati let a stream of milk flow directly into the Khir Ganga caves. If you are wondering, Kheer means milk pudding, and Ganga means a flow.

While walking through the camps to the hot baths, I felt as if I had suddenly changed planets. Hundreds of camps dotted the hills of Kheerganga. Parvati rushed in the valley below but her voice was crushed by the music blasting out of the tents. Snowy mountains still surrounded us from all sides but numerous shops and camps obscured the views too many times.

Though Kheerganga is one of the most sought-after treks near Kasol, I wasn’t awed by Khirganga like I was impressed by Bhunbhuni.

In the natural hot baths, I took off my clothes and let the fatigue dissolve away in the steaming hot water. All I could feel was the warm water against my bare skin and the cold breeze that occasionally caressed my cheek.

I closed my eyes under the inky sky and let the rolling meadows of Bunbuni fill my dreams.

 

animals+children+bunbuni+pastures++parvati+valley+india+mountains

 

bhunbhuni+shepherds+parvati+valley+sosan
Bunbuni, Parvati Valley, Himachal.

Follow up read: If you like hiking, you might enjoy guide to hiking in Dharamshala

 

Please note: The trek to Khirganga via Bhunbhuni is an alternate trek. The regular trek to Khirganga is from Kalgha. Or you can say from Kasol to Kheerganga for first you arrive in Kasol, then go to Barshaini, and then you walk to Kheerganga from there without going to Bunbuni. Most of the people take the Kalga-Khirganga route as that one is more well-marked.

Of course, the more popular a trail is the more people you can find on it. That is why I took the Kalgha-Bunbuni-Khirganga path. No other tourists were doing the Bhunbhuni trek the day we went there. And as I have described above, Bunbuni is gorgeous which makes the hike a must-do for mountain lovers.

But if I write about Bunbuni and everyone goes there, would the place still have its austerity? I am not sure. Maybe, that is the reason I was hesitant to write this article.

As a writer and a travel blogger, I like to tell people about places that can change their outlook towards life. So I am writing this Bun Buni pass trek guide.

On the promise, that we will not create noise, will not leave garbage behind, respect the animals and locals, and try to maintain the sanctity of such places.

That is my humble request.

Read my Kalga travel guide for all the information you need about Kalga: Kalga village, Parvati Valley

You can also have a look at my travel guide to Manikaran Sahib, a small village that stands timeless on the shores of Parvati, if you are looking for places to see in Parvati valley.

 

FAQ’s on Bunbuni and Kheerganga trek.

himachal pradesh trekking routes on himachal pradesh trekking map

 

Where is Kheerganga?

Kheer Ganga is located at an elevation of about 3000 m in the Kullu district of Parvati Valley, Himachal Pradesh. Kheerganga is at a distance of about 12 km from the village of Barshaini which is the last motorable village. The only way to reach Khirganga is by trekking from Barshaini to Kheerganga.

Where is Bunbuni Pass?

Bunbuni pass is also located in the mountains of Parvati valley. From Kalga, you would need about 5-6 hours to reach Bunbuni pass by trekking uphill through the Parvati forests.

What is the best time to do the Kheerganga trek and Bunbuni Pass?

The best months to do the Kheerganga and Bhunbhuni treks are May, August, September, and October. During June and July Parvati valley receives heavy rainfall making the mountains slippery, and the roads get washed away by streams and waterfalls.

Beyond October, Khirganga and Bunbuni pass would get too cold as the temperatures would drop, and the area would also receive rainfall.

This is a general statistics for Kheerganga weather is unpredictable. Bun Buni pass weather is even more dynamic as the pass is even higher up than Khirganga.

The higher you go in the mountains, the faster the weather changes there.

Plan your trip to Parvati accordingly.

How is it to go for a Kheerganga trek during monsoon? 

Rainy, slippery, muddy, cold, et cetera are the words that come to my mind.

Is Kheerganga trek closed?

Though intermittently the government close down the Khirganga camps to limit the garbage and noise problems, currently the trek is open. If the camps are closed, you would have to return to the nearest village, that is Kalgha, to stay for the night.

Do check online if the Kheerganga trek route has any issues close to the date you wish to travel. Closing or opening of the trek also depends on the weather of Kheerganga and the geographic situation of the surrounding areas. Once the trek to Kheerganga was closed for weeks due to a landslide which closed the route to Khirganga.

But the trail from Bunbuni to Khirganga is an alternate route to Khirganga. Even that trek would be dependent on the weather conditions. So when you go, please check with the locals.

Is the Bunbuni trek closed?

The route to Bunbuni is not a popular trail. But the feasibility to do the trek depends on the weather and climatic conditions. I would suggest that you ask the locals to see if you can do the trek.

The best months to go to Bunbuni are May, June(some days are sunny and some cloudy), September.

How safe is it to do the Kheerganga trek without a guide?

Now there are two treks to Kheerganga — one that I have mentioned which is the Kalga-Bunbuni-Kheerganga trail. Another standard trail is the one in which you directly climb up from Kalga to Kheerganga.

The standard trail to Kheerganga from Kalgha is doable without the guidance of a professional.

But for the trail to Khirganga via Bhunbhuni, you need a guide.

Also, remember that the Khirganga weather is unpredictable. So watch out for a clear sky and then head out.

Can you do the kheer Ganga trek alone?

For the Kalga-Kheerganga route, yes. For the Kalga-Bhunbhuni-Khirganga route, mostly no unless you know the path well. Remember you are walking in the forest without a guide, tourists don’t go there, only a few locals or shepherds would go there that too not always, and the jungle is dense with the trails not being marked well.

What are tips for traveling solo to Kheerganga?

If you are taking the Bhunbhuni to Kheer Ganga route, please do not go alone as the route is not easy to find.

But if you go from Kalga to Khir Ganga directly, make sure you carry some snacks, water, basic medicines, rain jacket, and cash. Wear good walking shoes and comfortable trekking trousers. Carry a jacket for the cold.

Start walking to Khirganga early. Download the Google maps of the area offline. But hopefully you wouldn’t need the map for many people do the standard Kalga-Khirganga route, and you will always have company.

Is Kheerganga trek safe?

Both the routes to Kheerganga are safe. But remember you are in the Himalayas. Rain and hailstorms are moody there, landslides happen, roads get washed away, and so on. Himachal Pradesh trekking routes are erratic. But still, choose good weather to visit.

Is Kheerganga trek safe in June?

Yes. I did the Kheerganga trek in June. Though due to the heavy rainfall, the sodden paths to Khirganga were slippery. Water streams rushed on the roads. To be able to keep the track alive, people have put up ladders and stones, too.

Even the path to Bunbuni was covered by grass and was difficult to find. So you would need someone who already knows the trail to Bunbuni.

Wear good hiking shoes if you are doing the trek to Khirganga and Bunbuni in June.

Is Kheerganga trek difficult? How difficult is the trek to Bhunbhuni, Himachal Pradesh?

The standard trail to Khirganga — which I did while coming back from Kalgha to Khirganga — was a 3-4-5-6 hour hike one-way depending on the walking speed and the fitness level of an individual. Kheerganga trek distance would be about 12 km from Barshaini.

Kheerganga trek difficulty level is said to be easy. You don’t need ropes or harness or any such thing. You just need to walk for a long time out of which you are going uphill most of the time.

If you are decently fit, you can do this trek easily. I saw a lot of people who hadn’t done trekking before and struggled through the hike.

But this is for the standard route from Kalgha to Khirganga.

Now the route from Kalga to Bunbuni is said to be hard. We walked for about 5 hours uphill to arrive at Bunbuni. I am not counting the time we stayed at a place when it rained. The walk was mostly steep.

The route to Khir Ganga from Bunbuni was also trickier. You descend a lot and then also climb up in between. You go through a glacier, a buffalo path, a steep hill, et cetera.

That being said, a lot of people still do both these treks. If you have a month or so with you, run, do yoga, or walk or hike every day to become a bit more active if you aren’t already. That would help.

The idea is to you have to keep walking without thinking when would this trek finish. That’s all. Enjoy.

How long is Kheerganga trek? 

Though I have given the Kheerganga trek details above, I will say that the time taken to complete the hike to Kheerganga depends on an individual.

Some people took three hours, some four or more, and some could never complete the trek.

Can we complete the Kheerganga trek in one day from morning to night?

You can, but only the regular trail to Kheerganga. Remember that if you complete the return in one day, you would have to start walking early.

How can I make my trip to the Kheerganga trek on low budget?

You do not need much to do this trek. You can walk on the standard Kalga-Khirganga route without a guide. All you would need is some food and a place to stay for the night. Even if you go to Khirganga via Bhunbhuni, you only need to know someone who knows the route. Or hire a local as a guide.

How to reach Kasol from Delhi?

Delhi to Parvati valley is a popular route so you will find buses easily.

Take a bus from Delhi to Bhuntar. You can also fly to Bhuntar. Get down at Bhuntar and take another local bus to Kasol. You can ask the bus driver who drops you at Bhuntar about a bus to Kasol.

The duration of the journey from Delhi to Bhuntar is almost 12 hours. The bus journey from Bhuntar to Kasol takes about an hour but also depends on the traffic, weather, driver, conductor, and so much more. You will know when you go there.

Manali to Parvati Valley is also a popular route. Manali to Bhuntar or Manali to Manikaran road is well-connected by bus. So if you are close by, just go to Manali and then travel from there.

See if you get a direct Bhuntar to Barshaini bus. For the trek to Khirganga, you have to go until Barshaini so this would be the best option. Then hike up to Kalga, stay there for a day or two or as much as you like, and then head to Khirganga.

Find more details about Kasol on my Kasol travel post.

How to reach Kalga?

Take a local bus to Barshaini from wherever you are in the Parvati valley. Then cross the dam and take the stairs up to Kalga. Ask someone around the dam and they will guide you.

How to reach Kheerganga, ParvatiValley?

To do the Kheerganga trek from Kasol, you will have to come until Barshaini by bus and then walk up to Kalga and climb up further. If you ask anyone in Kalga, they will tell you the way to Kheerganga. Keep asking and Keep going.

Distance between Kasol and Kheerganga is broken into two — Distance between Kasol and Barshaini is about 40 km and would take about an hour and a half depending on the day. Barshaini to Kheerganga is about 12 km.

You can also go from Manikaran to Kheerganga if you are staying in Manikaran. Follow the same steps of taking a bus until Barshaini and then hiking up.

What are the night stay options in Kheerganga?

You can find many camps in Kheerganga. You don’t even need to book a place to stay in Kheerganga beforehand for Khirganga has many camping options.

What is the cost of camping in Kheerganga?

Kheerganga stays aren’t that expensive and you can even find a bed for a 100 rupees a night. Or if you are looking for something more comfortable, you can take a private tent which would cost more. If you have booked a Kheerganga trek package then your camping would be included in that.

 

bunbuni+to+khirganga+trek+sheep+parvati+valley+himachal.

 

Would you go for a Kheerganga trek via Bunbuni pass? Tell me!

5 Comments

  1. Diptayan November 12, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Firstly, I want to thank you for sharing such a detailed and enlightening post. I am planning a trip to parvati valley next summer with a few of my friends. After doing some research, we have decided to go to bunbuni from kalga first, stay for a night, come down to kheerganga the next day and spend the night there. So can you tell me the estimated time required to reach bunbuni from kalga and bunbuni to kheerganga the next day? Also, I heard bunbuni is quite isolated with very less footfall. So, will we get some food there to spend the night ?.. Also, (last question :p) can you tell me how much a guide can charge for these two days of trekking?

    Reply
    1. Priyanka Gupta November 12, 2019 at 11:04 pm

      Hey Diptayan. Thanks for dropping by and your sweet comment. Great decision. We took about 5-6 hours to reach Bunbuni. It depends on your speed and the climate, too. We were stuck in a hailstorm so we couldn’t move for many hours. You can do Bunbuni in like 4-5 hours, too. Bunbuni to Kheerganga is definitely 3 hours or more. You can get food but you need to let the shepherds know. Your guide can arrange for that perhaps? Carry your own rice or dal and other things and cook there. Request the shepherds for wood and utensils. Clean them later and return. I am not sure about the charges. It is better if you ask at a guesthouse.

      Reply
  2. Farrah October 22, 2019 at 1:51 am

    This looks like an absolutely gorgeous hike! I think I’m gonna have to add it to my travel bucket list! *-* I’m with you on wondering whether it’s best to keep hidden gems hidden–it’s a hard call, but I do hope everyone who visits any place leaves it as it was found (or better).

    Reply
  3. Aparna Verma August 28, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    This is a perfect and complete blog to read, Thanks for sharing such an amazing post. I read your post for the first time and simply loved reading it. Thanks for the share. Cheers!!!

    Reply
    1. Priyanka Gupta October 18, 2019 at 7:47 pm

      Thank you, Aparna. I am glad you loved the article. Are you planning to go for the trek?

      Reply

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.