Over the years, Parvati Valley has become a popular tourist region – almost too popular, I would say. Places like Kasol and Tosh are now beyond recognition. What once used to be a beautiful amalgamation of the higher mountains in the background, the Parvati River flowing as ferociously as it does, and a thick forest cover around has now turned into a river polluted with plastic and the forest cover giving way to a concrete jungle instead. Only the higher mountains remain constant.
Though I often visit Parvati Valley myself, seldom have I truly explored the region’s beauty apart from the likes of Kasol, Chalal and Tosh. I often visit the region for the many short treks in Parvati Valley, but I had little idea of what lies beyond. I first came across the Shilha village when I had gone for the Waichin Valley trek in 2019. While coming back from the trek, I had to book a place to stay in Kasol and booked the Hakuna Matata by Timon and Pumbaa on Booking.com. After a quick call with the owners, I realized that this homestay was located in Shilha village in Parvati Valley, and not in Kasol itself. Though I was very interested in going and visiting this unknown place myself, my company would rather spend time chilling in the cafes of Kasol, and the majority eventually vetoed me out.
That day, I swore to return to Parvati Valley and visit Shilha village soon, but I forgot about it all. It was in 2020, that I landed on a blog post about Shilha village randomly while researching something else. I started to frantically search for that stay that I had cancelled a year ago. My booking history came to the rescue and my mission to visit Shilha village in Parvati Valley was once again ignited.
Once travel finally opened, I headed to Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh but as fate would have it, I ended up in Kasol with a friend for a few days. I was once again, reminded of Shilha village and I convinced him to go, and go we did!
What's In Here
How to reach Shilha village in Parvati Valley
Having biker friends is a godsent gift. You don’t have to worry much about the public transport route or the timings. We set off one morning after a heavy brunch on my friend’s bike from Kasol to Shilha village.
The village is located on the way to Barshaini beyond Manikaran. The route to Shilha and Tosh is the same, Shilha just comes way before Tosh.
To reach Shilha from Delhi by public transport, first hop on to an overnight Volvo bus heading to Bhuntar.
From Bhuntar, take a bus headed to Barshaini and get off at Oonchdhar. From here, you will have to hike to reach Shilla village on the mountain on the other side of the river. It’s a short hike with some stunning views, with bridges for crossing the river.
If you’re visiting Shilha in a private vehicle or taxi, you can go all the way to the village where the road ends. Make sure to take the diversion going towards Shilha from Ghatighat.
Where to stay in Shilha village
Shilha village is still an offbeat place in Parvati Valley. Since the tourist footfall is less, the number of homestays in Shilha village is also less. The one I would personally recommend is the Hakuna Matata hostel. It is a beautiful, old pahadi house with some gorgeous views of the valley and nearby mountains. The way to Hakuna Matata by Timon and Pumbaa is right at the beginning of the village, but if you lose your way, just ask the locals where “Khemu bhai’s” house is. Or just call Archit Talwar at (+91) 7982408861.
The Giant Pine Tree…
We came with absolutely no plans and expectations. I was only in Shilha village because of that one memory and I felt I owed it to the Universe to make a visit here. There are not many “things to do in Shilha village”. It’s a peaceful little place where one can take walks up the mountain and go as far as your legs take you. That is exactly what we decided to do.
The owners of our homestay in Shilha gave us rough directions of the trail we must follow in order to get to the “devta ka ped”. Passing through many harvested maize fields, we stumbled upon an enormous oak tree that we thought must be the holy tree thanks to its sheer size. I climbed it without a thought and a woman – leaning forward because of the weight of the basket of hay on her back – smiled at us. I asked her if this was the devta ka ped. She said no, and directed us further up the mountain.
After crossing yet another set of harvested fields and massive meadows, we finally reached a small clearing that housed three pine trees bigger than I could imagine. Without a doubt, we had reached the devta ka ped. The aroma of the pines was almost intoxicating in that small clearing and I felt like I had entered a bubble where life outside did not matter. All that mattered was what was in that little clearing in that very moment – the pine trees, a giant rock, some birds, a little sunshine and little me.
…And an Endless Walk
After having spent enough time going around the trees, marvelling at their size and the textures on the barks, we decided to make our way further up the mountain. As we kept walking, the landscape around us kept changing. The apple orchards and harvested fields soon gave way to denser pine forests. Amidst the trees, in small clearings, I saw small wooden huts stacked with fodder for the villager’s cattle and sheep. The colours of autumn were putting up a display one last time before winter took it all away. Shades of orange, red and yellow were visible in scarce amounts amidst the evergreen pines but the grass beneath was all brown and dry. The air was crisp and just the right amount of nippy and at that moment I felt the urge to stop and turn around.
As I turned around, in front of me I found a grand show of the orange, yellow, pink and purple colours of the sunset falling brilliantly on the seemingly tiny peaks of Spiti Valley visible from behind the mountain in front of me. We had walked so further up the mountain that what lay beyond the mountain wall in front of us was visible as well! The forest was getting darker by the minute but the colours in front of me only seemed to get brighter and at that moment, I wished I could spend eternity there.
My trance-like state was broken by the sounds of a shepherd far up on the mountain, talking to his wife who was sitting in the clearing where we were. It was fascinating to see how they could understand each other through the echoes in the distance between them. As the man made his way down the hill with a massive herd of sheep in front of him, I decided that perhaps it was time for us to turn back and start moving to go back “home”.
The Way Back Home
Before we could even reach the devta ka ped again, it had grown dark enough for us to lose our way. We were trying our best to retrace the steps but after a point, we had no idea where to go. But thankfully, Jasper had chosen to accompany us all this while. We decided to put all our trust blindly in this pearly white village dog and it’s safe to say we weren’t disappointed. It had gotten so dark that everywhere looked the same but we continued following Jasper silently. In no time at all, a glimmer of a light bulb appeared in the distant and a few minutes later, we were home. Hakuna Matata indeed!
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A twenty-something solo adventurer, Avantika finds comfort in learning about various cultures, its people and listening to age-old folk tales. When not on the road, she can be found cuddled up with her dog in her room, with a book in her hand.