Apart from the culturally conducive scene of Goa, the northern part of India has been an active hot bed for psychedelic music festivals. The Himalayan range of hills and mountains not only provide perfect locations, but also exclusivity for ardent psy-trance fanatics. So while you’re planning summer getaways to these picture-perfect hills, here’s a concise guide to help you along.
1. Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh
Travelling to Dharamsala from anywhere in India, is usually a train or bus ride away, maybe a combination of both. Nestled in the quiets hills of Himachal Pradesh, this lovely town is surrounded by dense coniferous forest consisting mainly of big and stately Deodar cedar trees. Dharamsala is home to many a cultural phenomena, including being the refuge for the Tibetan Dalai Lama and his followers and features on many a backpacker (or traveller’s) bucket list. If you’re heading there this summer, to get away from the maddening crowd and attend a music festival or two ( like, say, Himalayan Music festival), staying options in Dharamsala, Mcleodganj are aplenty. While Tripadvisor may list out tons of little hotels to stay at, we suggest you book a homestay or guest house which you can get for around 300 to 400 INR per night. Being summer time, prices may increase by a tiny margin, which is more than affordable. The Sherp has personally enjoyed his time at a few homestays like Shanti Cafe, Loseling Guest House, Kunga Guest house to name a few. The good thing about Dharamsala is that you can just turn up and find a place to stay as pre-booking isn’t usually a necessity! Something to remember : Most of these homestays are run by monks or families, who can benefit greatly from your business.
2. Parvati Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Parvati Valley is the epicentre and backbone of all hippie and psytrance events that take place in the North. In fact, some would deem it a yearly pilgrimage of sorts, as the valley is no stranger to the wonders of the genre. It’s popularity knows no bounds as a bunch of eclectic festivals are held there in the summer, including Parvati Peaking and Indrasan Festival. While Indrasan usually takes place in Kasol, Parvati Peaking takes place in a place called Choch and is not very far from Kasol. Therefore if you’re heading to the valley for a festival, Kasol would be the ideal place for you to bunk. At Kasol, listed hotels can range from around 1500 to 4000 INR a night via Tripadvisor or Lonely Planet. But if you’re hoping to find something cheaper and more homely (which we’re guessing you are), homestays and guest houses are your best bet, for anything between 150 to 1000 INR a night. However, most people frequent Kasol during the summer, which is why pre-booking home-stays and guest houses may be necessary for you. We suggest, that a day before you reach Kasol, you find a travel agent who can help you find vacancies. If you feel you need more of the outdoors, you can also camp out at the venue, like the many attendees who do.
Manali, Himachal Pradesh
Manali may be an unusual choice for music festivals, as the hill station is actually more well-known for family holidays, water sports and Bollywood movie shoots. However, Shiva Squad, one of the champions of psytrance music festivals in India has a made a home for itself in the gorgeous Manali valley. With that being said, staying in Manali will no doubt be a more expensive affair than Kasol or Dharamsala, particularly because of the number of tourists that frequent the place. However, if you book now you will be able to find rooms for 700 to 2000 INR a night. Now, if these budgets seem problematic to you (hello, we’re all college students remember?) that shouldn’t stop you from attending the festival. In that case, couch surfing and camping may just be the right way to go. Manali has quite a few couch-surfing possibilities, you can find here. Couch-surfing is a superb idea for people travelling in twos or threes, and who have an affinity to meeting new people. If that doesn’t work out, you could always carry your camping gear along, and camp around the festival venue.