Hike to a Hot bath: Kheer Ganga, Himachal Pradesh
To reach Kheer Ganga in the Parvati Valley in Himachal Pradesh, the closest town is Bharsheni. One has to take a bus ride from Bhuntar to Bharsheni. This ride takes 5-6 hours along a winding road that is bumpy.
Once at Bharsheni walk down the steps from the dam construction site, trekking along a mountainous path for between four to six hours depending on one’s speed.
Many travelers however, prefer to drop in at Tosh, Pulga or spend the night at Bharsheni as they do not want to reach Kheer Ganga after sun down since the walk is long and tiresome.
Kheer Ganga is located at a height of 13,051 feet above sea-level (3978 m), while on the trek to the hot sulphur springs there; one has to ascend a height of more than 5,000 feet. While on the path there are a number of small water-falls in the midst of a coniferous forest that need to be crossed.
To reach Kheer Ganga it is necessary to pass the village of Naktan where the holy place of Rudranag is located. It is here that people eat food, snacks and relax on their way to the springs. The tea stalls at Naktan are all made of wood from the trees found in the forest. Here noodles, biscuits and tea are sold. These stalls have a rustic look and feel to them.
As one plods along the path there are a number of wooden bridges that one has to cross along the way. Many trees along the path are struck by lightning and have hollow barks. Horses carry goods up and down the path. While on the trek the path often gets slippery as a result of slush. It is advisable to carry a wooden stick along for aid and balance during the trek.
The accommodation at Kheer Ganga is make-shift as there is no village there but there is an open pasture where business people come and set shop. The rooms at Kheer Ganga are made of patra and each of them has a tandoor due to the low temperatures in the nights. There is no electricity so the restaurants here run on power supplied by generators.
There are a large number of foreign travelers who visit the springs. The food at Kheer Ganga is limited with the make-shift restaurants selling food and other eatables at prices that are very high, even above the MRPs. This is due to the transportation along the 5,000 feet that needs to be done to get foodstuffs up to Kheer Ganga. Foods like pasta, steak, pizza. etc are easily available at exorbitant rates. The only Indian food that one will get here is a vegetarian thali.
The must-do thing at Kheer Ganga is to take a dip in the hot sulphur springs. There is a separate bathing area for men and women. There is also a Shiva temple near the springs. The view from Kheer Ganga is splendid as one gets a 360 degree view of the Great Himalayas with their snow-capped mountains.
The best time to visit Kheer Ganga is from mid-April to the end of September. The descend from Kheer Ganga is much faster and takes less than three hours. It is advisable to carry one litre of water per person on the trek.
Kheer Ganga is the perfect place for backpackers to visit and set tent. With its magnificent location perched in the midst of the forest it is indeed a reminder of ‘Paradise Lost’ with beauty, tranquility and a hot bath all in one place.
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