Solo Women Budget Trip to Parashar Lake, Mandi, Himachal Pradesh

Certain beautiful scenic destinations in the mountains are always located at a point where public transportation don’t go and therefore it becomes difficult for solo woman budget travelers to reach there. In my previous post I shared my experience of going to one such place, Abbott Mount in Champawat, Uttarakhand. In this post I am sharing my experience of visiting Parashar Lake, in district Mandi, Himachal Pradesh.

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On  the way to the lake, a tea stall. It rained heavily for a while and thick fog turned up

Parashar Lake is a well-kept secret from the annoying tourists who throw plastic bottles and chips packets at any place they visit. But it is a very popular destination among Himalayan trekking enthusiasts. A simple Google search would lead you to various web results giving you information about trekking routes to Parashar Lake, most popular of them being a 10 kms trek from village Bagi through the Parashar forest.

Parashar Lake is a blue water lake with a floating island or a patch of grass and unknown depth, surrounded by Dhauladhar mountain range of Kulu Valley, at a height of about 9000 feet from sea level. Next to the lake there is a 3 storied wooden temple believed to be built in 13th century. The lake is named after Parashar Muni, a sage who is believed to have written the Vishnu Purana. It also finds mention in the Hindu mythology Mahabharata and is considered holy by many pilgrims. In the spring and summers the mountains around the lake remain covered with fresh green grass while during winters the lake becomes frozen and the mountains get fully covered in snow. On the first day of Ashada month (corresponds to June/July in the Gregorian calendar) a mela take place at the lake which is attended by devotees of all faith.

The lake is really in the middle of nowhere far away from the din of civilization. The only buildings around the area are the two government rest houses and the wooden Parashar temple. And a few makeshift tea and food stalls where you can have your lunch.

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An old house on the hill top shot through my Lensbaby, to bring a surreal haunting effect
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The temple near the lake

There isn’t any activity near the lake besides photography. If you are not a photography enthusiast, you may just sit on the grass near the lake and absorb the silence. Read a book or two, watch the grazing cattle. Although I said it is kept secret from tourists, no place in India can be completely off funny people taking selfies. So you might want to observe them for amusement.

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I am a photography enthusiast, so I spotted these tiny mountain flowers which  I shot through my macro lens.

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Others may also do beautiful astro-photography at night but for a solo traveler depending upon public transport it might be difficult. More on that below.

Visiting Parashar Lake using Public Transport

The nearest city to Parashar Lake is Mandi, Himachal Pradesh. If you plan to reach the lake via public transport this is your best location. There are plenty of overnight buses, of various types, from Delhi to Mandi which usually takes 10-11 hours. The bus would reach Mandi in the morning around 7 am.

As soon as you get off the bus from Delhi, you’d have to hop into a state run bus to Parashar Lake. This is the only one state run bus from Mandi to Parashar which starts at around 7.30 and takes about four hours to reach. The same bus returns at around 1.30 pm in the afternoon and reaches Mandi at 5.30 pm. The bus schedule is prepared with the assumption that visitors to Parashar Lake are likely to make a day trip and come back by evening instead of staying at Parashar. If you fail to take the bus in the morning from Mandi, your only option to reach is to hire a private vehicle or take lift from other tourist vehicles.

I personally believe it is safe to take lift from vehicles like small trucks transporting cattle or carrying asphalt for road construction or private jeeps in which grocery items are transported for the two guest houses up at Parashar Lake. I have hopped into all of these and found them nice and friendly. The cattle truck was empty and along with the driver there was a lady in the front seat.

Stay in Parashar Lake

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The Forest Guest House

If you miss the return bus to Mandi, you are once again either stuck in Parashar Lake or you need to hitchhike your way back 50 kms. There are absolutely no hotels or lodges until at distance of about 2 kms from the lake. There are the Forest Guest House and the PWD Guest House. I couldn’t find a room in the PWD guest house, but found one in Forest guest house.

If you plan to stay in Parashar, you should pre-book the guest houses which are reasonably priced (non-AC double room for INR 1000). There are a few private tents but chances of locating them and finding one of them vacant is less. Your best bet however is to carry a tent of your own. Though camping within the boundary of the lake is also not allowed you can camp slightly off the limit but still close enough to the lake. One can visit the lake at night, and it is a beautiful sight.

Budget for a 2 day trip

Day 1: Overnight bus from Delhi to Mandi: INR 1000 (approx)
Day 2: Local bus to Mandi: INR 145; Reach Parashar Lake and Stay at Guest House: (1000) or 300 for private tent
Day 3: head back to Mandi and then to Delhi – 1145
Food: approx 600-800 for entire trip.
Total: INR 3000 – 3200 for the whole trip

Safety

I found the entire journey absolutely safe. People of Himachal are usually known to be peaceful. The buses are crowded but it didn’t seem a problem to me.

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