My name is Yati and I lead the community management team for The Hosteller. What is community management you ask? Well, it is quite self-explanatory. We manage the travel community here. What that means is that we are responsible for our travellers having the most fun and delightful travel experiences with us. We organize city walks, food walks, fort tours and accompany our travel groups on almost all of the treks that we send out. It is our job to make our guests feel at home and we end up being friends with them always. It might sound like all fun and games, but trust me we are entrusted with a lot of responsibility. Let me tell you all about Grahan and this fantastic mountain trip that we took 15 of our eager travellers on!
On the 12th of September this year, The Hosteller organized the 2nd edition of our Secret Trip. This is a unique trip where all our participating travellers do not know where we are taking them till they have actually reached! Exciting isn’t it? This time we took our ‘kidnapees’ to the mesmerising village of Grahan, Himachal Pradesh.
Grahan is a small, self-sustaining village located around 10km uphill from the town of Kasol. I have travelled to many places during my work here but I’d have to say this is the most peaceful place I have ever been to. The entire village is surrounded by gigantic mountains whose peaks are sprinkled with stark white snow. You see bright-eyed village kids playing in open green fields and the smell of pahadi chai permeates the surroundings. It is truly heaven on earth.
Here are a few important details about Grahan:
- The nearest pit stop is Kasol town. There are a few different routes you can take to reach Grahan from Kasol. You can reach Kasol in a car, shared taxi or buses. Most buses stop at Bhunter.
- You can only reach Grahan on foot. No form of transportation goes there.
- Alcohol consumption is strictly prohibited in that village.
- There are no shops in Grahan and only a few homestays. So your accommodation would depend upon availability.
- Expect heavy footfall of travellers during the warmer months of April-June-July-August. During the winter, the scene becomes much more beautiful but because of the height and the temperatures, there are lesser hikers.
- There is absolutely no cell phone service in Grahan.
- Grahan has electricity so you do not have to be worried about that.
- Travellers are not allowed to go inside or participate in the religious temple activities. Be warned about that. Only locals are allowed to do so. Please do not bother them by asking to be included in it.
I am now going to give you a slightly detailed insight into what our trip looked like. This is for all you guys who plan to travel to Grahan and do not have an idea of how to go about the itinerary.
Day 1: Check in at The Hosteller Kasol at around 11 in the morning. Our hostel is the first hostel to ever open in Kasol and boasts of stylish dorms, big lounging areas with gorgeous views and a cafe to meet all your hunger needs. After freshening up, the 15 of us went on a tour of the Kasol town. Few of the travellers accompanying me shopped in the local stores and some tried out a few desserts in the local eateries. Following that, we went to the Manikaran Gurudwara which is situated fairly near to Kasol and is a definite must-see if you are this area. Upon return, we lit a big bonfire at The Hosteller courtyard and made countless s’mores. I also took the opportunity here to go live on Instagram then and we had fun talking to everyone who sent us questions and introducing all our eager travellers. Everyone was excited about the big day tomorrow so soon after we had a hearty dinner (courtesy of The Hogger Cafe) and went to bed.
Tip: Don’t carry unnecessary things on the trek. You will be gone for only one night and have to trek about 3 hours uphill and downhill the next day. You can give your extra baggage to us at The Hosteller Kasol for safekeeping.
Day 2: This was the day of the big trek. We got up at 9 am for a healthy breakfast and began our climb to Grahan. There is a big waterfall next to our Kasol hostel. Adjacent to that is a path that opens up to the Grahan village waterfall. This route is quite offbeat and is not known by many people. You could call it The Hosteller Kasol’s little secret. While climbing up, we usually take the common route and save this for when we are returning to Kasol, as it opens up right next to the hostel. The more commonly taken route starts with a right turn just before the Kasol bridge begins. This is the route you will find most people taking. For the first 40-45 minutes of the trek, the Kasol river runs towards the left of us. After that, we cross a bridge. This bridge is quite large and completely made of metal. It leads toward the left. This is when the scenery starts to shift a little and becomes a bit steeper. The river is gone and you are flanked with huge pine and deodar trees on both sides, along with beautiful mountains. A little while later the road bifurcates into two paths. The path on the left is a shortcut to Grahan but is quite a steep climb via the mountain. The path on the right is about 1-1.5km longer but easier to climb, especially if you are with a group of people. Needless to say, we choose the right path.
Finally, after about one hour more of walking, we reached the picturesque hamlet of Grahan filled with gorgeous views. Everyone was a little tired from the hike but super excited to have finally reached here. There were giant mountains on all sides, huge open fields, beautiful mountain goats and dogs playing about and the most hospitable people I have ever met. The entire village has only about 300 people and a maximum of 50 houses. We all settled into our homestays and happily accepted the steaming cups of masala pahadi chai our host handed to us. The local people are so loving and accepting of travellers that they didn’t even charge us for the tea. We all spent some time walking around the small town. Some of us gathered around a chulha (heating device) and warmed ourselves while some others spent there time taking photos of this mesmerising location and playing with the cute local kids. We even handed out candies to a few. Their bright eyes and pink cheeks really softened my heart.
Later at night, we were served a delicious home-cooked meal of yellow dal, sabji, rice and pickle. We all thoroughly enjoyed it. One fantastic thing about nights here is the sky. It gets lit up with millions of stars and it seems like you can gaze into galaxies a thousand light years away. During a new moon, you can see every single star in the sky clearly. But even on other days, the sky clears up after 12-1 am and makes for a spectacular view. If you are an astrophotographer, then Grahan should definitely be on your travel bucket list.
Tip: There are a few dhabas that serve tea, coffee, biscuits and Maggi on the way to Grahan. But after 1.5 hours of walking, the road is completely abandoned and you will not find any place to buy food from even if you are famished. So if you know that you might need a few munchies on the go, it is best to carry them with you. And plenty of water.
Day 3: Our third and last day started with the most astonishingly beautiful sunrise. Around a 100 meters away from our homestay was a huge open field. In the early morning, some of us woke and gathered there to watch the sunrise as suggested to us last night by some locals. And it was truly one of the most magical things on the entire trip. The sun looked like a living breathing goddess bestowing light and love on all of us. We rubbed the warmth into our skin (much needed as it was quite cold) and made our way back to our homestay. Most of the morning was spent roaming around the village looking at the guesthouses being constructed, clicking photos of the unforgettable views of the Parvati valley and eating breakfast. Following that we all packed up and left for Kasol. An adorable mountain dog with shining brown fur followed us all the way down.
Tip: Trust the mountain dogs. They climb up and down these mountains with travellers on a daily basis. More often than not they will start indicating and barking in front of the right route to take and help many people from getting lost. Not to mention how adorable they are.
This Secret Trip was one of my greatest mountain adventures as community manager yet because not only did I get to explore a location I had never been to before, it was with a group of 15 people who had no idea where exactly they were climbing to. I can truly say that in many ways Grahan changed something in me. The natural beauty and gigantic mountains towering us on all sides remind me of how minuscule we are when it comes to nature. A trip to Grahan this winter season is a definite must for anyone wanting to experience an offbeat location in the Parvati valley. To know more about our guided treks to Grahan click here and to know about The Secret Trip and its next dates click here!
Come with us on one of these trips and who knows? Maybe I am going to be the very one climbing with you.