From the Sun-Kissed Balcony of Kalga Village, Himachal Pradesh.
Almost deaf with the loud music that blasted out of the speakers of Indian travelers who visit Kasol to escape the Delhi heat, I ran out of Kasol after staying there for a night. A steep uphill walk took me to the village of Shilha, a tiny apple village that seems to be pasted onto the slopes of a beautiful green hill. Only I didn’t know that the speaker lovers from Delhi had discovered Shilha and were smoking away in the few guesthouses of Shilha village.
I gave up and joined the groups of Indian boys around a bonfire under a starry night. But rigid about running away from people who couldn’t appreciate the silence of Parvati valley, I strapped my bag and walked towards Kalga the next morning.
After a long walk while crossing water streams running over the road unabashedly, I arrived at the staircase that leads to the village of Kalga. Under the thundering clouds, I climbed up the muddy stairs almost stumbling down a few times.
As the sun was hidden behind one of the loud clouds and power was gone, I entered a faintly-visible Kalga.
Suddenly the entire landscape changed. I was not in a village, I was in an apple orchard.
Umbrella-like apple trees seemed to be bowing down under the weight of water and the blossoming apples. Sodden lanes in the village were perfectly slippery to make you fall down on your face. Almost empty restaurants and cafes stood silent.
Also Read: Manikaran Sahib, Parvati Valley – Time traveling in Parvati Valley
Shuttling between the crackling wooden guesthouses of Kalga that seemed to be from prehistoric times, I decided to stay at the first guest house at the beginning of Kalga for reasons unknown.
The next few days rainclouds went crazy, and I stayed confined inside the room with a window. Oh, I might have hiked into the pine and deodar studded jungle behind Kalga only to come back running in my slippers under the bountiful rain showers. Let’s say I didn’t fall.
Find why do I travel even if I keep falling here: My reasons to travel.
I also went out to eat a few times for the young boys that ran the guesthouse prepared lunch at dinner and dinner was served the next morning. If I had said something they would have smoked my complain away so instead of requesting for timely meals I discovered new places to eat every evening.
On one such rainy night, I arrived at Guru’s cafe and sat outside in the drizzle to avoid the typical Parvati travelers that I assumed must have huddled inside the cafe.
But destiny had planned it otherwise for soon I found myself inside to avoid getting soaked. Gorging upon the dry okra and chapati while soaking in the warmth from the iron stove that ran on wood and dry cow dung, I relaxed for the first time in Parvati. There was no blasting music, and nobody talked about playing any.
The next morning I walked back to the cafe on the orders of an empty stomach. As Kalga hadn’t been able to enchant me yet, I carried my small backpack in case I wanted to leave after breakfast. I was even thinking of getting out of Parvati and making my way to another valley or giving up on Himachal and flying to Bangalore.
Suggested read: My travel and living stories from India.
While serving me another plate of okra and crispy chapati under a clear sky, the house lady said that she had an empty room if I wanted to see. A starving stomach can make you do some nasty stuff, but a satisfied-stomach is even more selfish.
I climbed up the creaky wooden stairs of Guru’s cafe to find a room which took me many centuries back. The only furniture in the room was a wooden bed that lay in the middle of the room. Two velvety blankets were spread on the bed. There was no fan.
A wide window opened above blossoming apple trees. Snowy Himalayan peaks shined at a distance. Cottony bundles of clouds rolled around in the azure blue sky. Neon-green corn and pea fields rolled over to meet the mountains. Abandoned wooden homes kept a considerable distance from each other.
I didn’t have much to decide.
Also Read: Living slow and practicing yoga in Dharamshala
That side of Kalga turned out to be different from the entire Parvati valley. Smokers still roamed around, but less in numbers. Loud music wasn’t allowed in Kalga. As Guru’s cafe was run by a family, food was available on time.
On top of it all, clouds parted to expose a bright inky sky for at least some parts of the day.
Starting my mornings with black coffee and aloo paratha, I sat in the balcony for the first few early hours switching between reading and doing nothing. Masala chai accompanied me as I watched the sun play hide and seek with the clouds.
I blamed the blue whistling thrush for not letting me read for often I found myself staring at the trees or jumping around the balcony to find the culprit that chirped around the guesthouse all day. Sometimes I even wandered off into the green fields and forest trying to stalk her or the yellow-billed blue magpie that had been dodging me since Dharamshala.
Also read: Living for a month in Bhagsu Nag village of Dharamshala
Lunch meant freshly made chapati or rice with the goodness of garlic dal or aloo gobhi. If the garden had fresh spinach, I always got the steaming palak paneer.
Afternoons were even more idyllic than the mornings for the sun spread a golden hue over the green carpet of Kalga making it impossible to take my eyes off the perfect Himalayan panorama. When it rained, I wrapped a blanket around me but didn’t leave my balcony seat. Clouds put up a show, the Himalayan bulbul sang, rainbows danced, and the trees showered until they couldn’t take anymore.
More rain meant cozying into the evening with more masala chai. And then when the golden hour approached, I left my book aside, turned my chair towards the sun setting between the two twin hills, and picked up my phone.
If one day the evening sky was orange, another day it was purple. From pink peach to golden mango to sindoori red, the sun set into the horizon dashing more shades on the sky than a naughty friend can throw at you on Holi.
While watching over from the balcony, this show of nature seemed surreal.
Let’s get the basics of life clear: Life is more than doing things of consequence, lessons inspired by The Little Prince.
Those sun-kissed evenings would then turn into starry-nights whose silence lulled me into a deep sleep while my earplugs laid unused next to my pillow.
Soon I would find myself running in the neon fields behind the magpie trying to trick her into letting me click a picture. She would then sit on my shoulder and together we would fly off into the horizon to meet the molten-gold sun.
The next morning I tried to find that picture only to realize it was all a dream.
But can you blame me for dreaming such a weird dream when I am living a fairy tale that is Kalga?
From apple trees to mango sunsets, Kalga has it all. I bet you that the picture-postcard landscape of Kalga would trick you into staying for longer. And I sincerely hope that you do.
Learn why you should let life takes its course: Life lessons inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke, the poet.
What is the altitude of Kalga village?
Kalga is located at an elevation of about 2,300 meters or 8,400 ft.
How to reach Kalga?
You cannot fly to Kalga as you must have guessed by now. But if you are coming from down South, you can fly into the Bhuntar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Pathankot, or Amritsar airport and then continue your journey from there to Parvati valley either by bus or car.
The best way to reach Kalga is by getting to Barshaini village in Parvati and then walking to Kalga. The walk from the Barshaini dam uphill to Kalga would take about half an hour.
How to travel to Barshaini? You can take a bus from Delhi, Chandigarh, or Dharamshala to Bhuntar. From Bhuntar, you will get many local buses going to Barshaini. If you don’t get a direct bus, get down at Manikaran and then take another bus to Barshaini, which is what we did most of the time.
If you are coming by train, you can only travel until Pathankot in Punjab, for that is the closest train station to Parvati valley. Then take a bus from Pathankot to Bhuntar or come via Amritsar.
If you are traveling to Kasol first, then read my travel guide to Kasol and then travel to Kalga from Kasol.
Hitchhiking is also a cool way to travel around Parvati valley.
Where to stay in Kalga?
Walk around to find a homestay in Kalga. Most of the guesthouses are wooden homes with a shared bathroom that is outside the house. Only New Brahma and one other guesthouse have attached bathrooms.
You can also look at places to stay in Parvati valley on Booking.
Kalga food is mostly organic or locally-grown. Most of the places you stay will provide food, but if not you can always walk down to some of the cool restaurants or cook your food if you have a kitchen.
Follow up read if you like birds: A Day in Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
What is the best time to visit Kalga, Himachal?
Kalga weather is unpredictable. But the best months to visit Kalga would be from April/May to June/July. I was in Kalga at the end of June. Even though it was raining a lot even in June, these are the summer months of Kalga. Some days would be sunny, and some would be clouded.
Plan your Parvati valley trip around summer for as the winter approaches Parvati gets too cold. But if you go to Parvati in September, you will be able to see the apple trees studded with red apples as that is the apple harvest time.
Also see: A photo essay of Spiti Valley: The photos that Instagram won’t let you see.
What are the other places to see around Kalga?
Places to visit in Parvati valley near Kalga are villages like Tosh, Manikaran, Pulga, Tulga, Chalal, Shilha, and many more. Stay for a few days in Kalga and visit these for a day or you can even walk to another village and stay there for the night.
Finding a place to stay in any of these villages is not a problem and can be done on the same day.
Here are my guides to some of these villages:
Shilha, Parvati valley – A gorgeous apple village tucked up on a velvety hill
Manikaran – Going slow in Manikran with Hot water Springs and Chai.
Some of the beautiful treks to do from Kalga are Kheerganga trek, Bunbuni trek, Sar Pass, and a few more. You can go from Kalga to Kheerganga on your own, and the trek takes about four-five hours depending on your speed. Bunbuni is an offbeat trek and you would need someone to guide you through the way. But you can also descend to Kheerganga from Bunbuni — which not a lot of people do and that makes the walk pretty awesome.
Read my detailed guide for the Kheerganga trek from Kalga via Bunbuni pass to see how gorgeous this hike is.
The very popular Grahan trek to the Grahan village is not usually done from Kalga. You can always go to Shilha or Kasol to do that one.
Also, have a look at my guide to traveling in Parvati valley on the offbeat trails.
My travel guide to Spiti valley would help you plan your Spiti Valley trip which can be done from Manali.
Would you love to visit Kalga? Tell me!
Note: This post contains affiliate links; if you choose to click through and make a booking or purchase a product, I will earn a little bit at no extra cost to you. It is entirely up to you if you decide to book or buy. Thank you.