Nestled in the bordering corners of Himachal Pradesh, Spiti Valley lies in the Western parts of Himalayas which witnesses less rainfall and has minimum vegetation.
Known for its “beyond amazing” landscapes, rough terrains and a tough accessibility, it is one of the most loved places for travelers who like less-commercial and partially explored destinations! Spiti is not just a District or destination to explore; it is an emotion which can truly be felt by a lucky few!
The second best way to experience Spiti is through a road trip (First would be on foot, provided you have that much time and stamina). The population here is really low thus limiting the public transport. Of course you can travel across Spiti with Public vehicles if you are an ardent traveler, yet I would suggest a Roadtrip.
Reasons to take a Road Trip across the Spiti Wilderness-
1. Itinerary Flexibility- A road trip means having a car at your own disposal, you may or may not drive it, but you can stop it anywhere and call it a day! The magic that these harsh terrains does to you, you might want to stay a day extra at the Kye monastery or just stop by at the Chacha-Chachi Dhaba in Batal and wish to spend the night there. Well it’s all possible only when you have your own vehicle. So come prepared with a rough itinerary and make amends as and when needed.
2. Photographer’s Dream- Alright, let’s just be honest, each one of us has a hidden photographer within us who wakes up from the nap whenever it sees something gorgeous! You know, that tiny photographer friend of yours, is gonna be up all while, when in Spiti. be it the dramatic changes in the landscape, the pretty Spiti river or the Deers crossing roads randomly, you would want to capture it all. Having your own vehicle gives you the liberty to snap the bewitching valleys and beauty of this majestic land and take breather breaks as you wish.
3. Spoilt for Comfort- The magic about Spiti Valley is that the entire journey is breathtaking and the “destination” just doesn’t matter. You enjoy each bit of the valley and be amazed as the landscape changes frequently, it just gets a little better when enjoying it from the comfort of your car. Also, its a continuous journey for hours each day (unless you are planning to call it home for a month), the rough terrains and basic public transport might get on to you and give you a bad back. While a roadtrip saves you time and energy and you can can just dump in all your essentials and takeaways and get set for the journey instead of maintaining a schedule and waiting for shared cabs and buses.
4. See the best of what you like- Although it looks like a small district, but Spiti has a lot to itself than just the awesomeness lying on the main roads, the villages in the interior regions doesn’t have easy connectivity. There are so many off beat things to do in Spiti, and not all places are accessible otherwise! When you have your own vehicle, have no fears! You wouldn’t mind spending the night at a deserted village with only a few houses, neither would you mind leaving extremely early to catch the sunrise at a particular point!
5. No fixed Time Schedule- Spiti Valley being remote has a scarce connectivity and using public transport means being on time, if you missed one bus, you are stranded for a day unless some amazing rider gives you lift. And with limited office leaves, even a day wasted can cost you a lot! While it sounds adventurous and keeps on your toes, Spiti is one of those places where you would want to laze around and wandergaze the valleys and lose track of time. Specially if it’s the off season when spotting buses or travelers is occasional, you don’t have to rely on hitch hiking for commute. And if you aren’t a Morning person, missing out on buses is quite easy.
Note- I will be sharing the tips, Information and Contacts (places to visit) in my upcoming blog on Spiti. Stay tuned for more!
Check out this Video for a glimpse of Spiti Valley as seen from the Window seat!
Here’s an ideal itinerary (with moderate pace) for Spiti Valley en route Kinnaur based on my recent trips to this hamlet!
Day 0- Delhi- Shimla (Overnight Volvo) Considering Delhi as the base, you can catch an overnight Bus from Delhi which drops you at Shimla early morning and this breathtaking journey would begin from Shimla!
Day 1- Shimla-Sarahan (Overnight Sarahan)- With a Good Morning Kiss from the mountains, Leave for your journey towards Sarahan en route stopping at Narkanda and Rampur for breather breaks and local sightseeing! You can visit the Bhimkali temple and the Sarahan palace and be awed at the typical Himachali architecture. Chill with the locals overlooking grand mountains and treat yourself to plate of Kinnauri Rajma-Rice, a staple of this region!
Day 2- Sarahan- Chitkul- Rakcham (Overnight Rakcham)- This is going to be an amazing journey through some of the most treacherous roads of world. You will cross a number of those rocky semi-tunnels and blind turns. Drive till Chitkul, last village of India crossing Sangla and Rakcham, take a short hike and soak in the beauty. Drive back to Rakcham for your stay by the riverside valley.
Day 3- Rakcham-Sangla-Reckong Peo-Kalpa (Overnight Kalpa)- Bid good bye to Rakcham as you leave for Kalpa. Explore Sangla in the morning, do the local sight-seeing and depart for kalpa driving beside Sutlej River. You will cross Reckong Peo which is the district headquater for Kinnaur and may have lunch here and leave for Kalpa.
Day 4- Kalpa-Nako (Overnight Nako)- It’s a short drive from Kalpa to Nako, but you will witness extreme and drastic landscape changes, from rocky and green mountains to beige barren lands! Nako is a small village which is house to a beautiful lake. It is advisable to stay at a camp/homestay beside the lake for best experience.
Day 5- Nako-Gue Mummy-Tabo (Overnight Tabo)- Gear up for amazing drive across majestic barren mountains. Cross Sumdo which is a bordering village between Kinnaur and Spiti districts. Visit mystical Gue Mummy driving on a detour treacherous roads for 12 KMs. Post being amazed by the history here, leave for Tabo. Visit the monastery and explore market. Spend the night stargazing and preferably stay at the monastery guest house or a home stay.
Day 6- Tabo- Dhankar-Lhalung-Kaza (Overnight Kaza)- It will be a tough goodbye to Tabo as you leave for Kaza. Drive through numerous Hairpin bends to mesmerizing Dhankar Gompa. Hike till the beautiful Dhankar Lake, and drive on the off road to Lhalung. Visit Lhalung Monastery and village. And drive down the Lingti Valley till main road crossing Rama village. Reach Kaza, the district capital of Spiti.
Check out my blog on Lhalung and why you shouldn’t miss it. https://thevagabonddreamer.com/2017/07/24/lhalung-monastery-a-mystery-of-spiti-valley/
Day 7- Kye monastery and nearby villages (Overnight Kaza)- Time for exploring the local villages and culture. Drive to one of the oldest monasteries Kye, and visit Kye and Kibber Villages. Post that, you can choose to explore from the numerous villages on the Left bank of Spiti river, however I would advice to not miss out on Langza, Hikkim and Komik.
Day 8- Kaza- Pin Valley (Mudh)- Kaza (Overnight Kaza)- Your drive to Spiti Valley isn’t complete if you miss out on witnessing the beauty of the Pin Valley National Park! Drive till this nature’s blessing, rest for a while and have lunch at Mudh Village and drive back till Kaza.
Day 9- Kaza-Kunzum Pass- Chandrataal (Overnight Chandrataal/Batal)- One of the most adventurous and beautiful drives of the trip as you head towards Chandrataal lake beside Spiti River. You will cross the mighty Kunzum Pass. Spend some “lifetime moments” besides the enchanting crescent moon shaped lake and stay overnight at camps under a 5000 star sky! You may also drive down till Batal/Losar if you don’t wish to stay at camps.
Day 10- Chandrataal-Manali- These roads! I am not sure if this stretch should be referred to as roads, since you are literally driving on gravel and mud for most of the time, and that indeed is beauty of this journey. Watch out for a number of road streams strong enough to wash away the vehicles. Cross Rohtang Pass and drive down till Manali.
The best part about a Road trip is that you can customize it according to your preferences! Though there are a few alternatives and minor changes you can do-
- If you wish to make it a compact trip with lesser number of days and aren’t interested in exploring much of Kinnaur, you may skip the first few days and make it longer drives on the first two days by doing: Day 1- Shimla- Rakcham, Day 2- Rakcham- Nako, the rest remaining the same, thus completing the circuit in 8 days instead of 10.
- If you are traveling in Winter, the Rohtang and Kunzum Pass remains closed, which means you would have to take a round trip viz Shimla-Kaza-Shimla, you can modify the itinerary accordingly. Ideally, you may plan to do Shimla-Sangla-Nako-Kaza-Kaza(Villages)-Kaza(Pin Valley)-Tabo-Kalpa-Sarahan-Shimla.
- You may also choose to enter and exit through Manali in summer months when Rohtang is open; however, I wouldn’t advice the same considering acclimatization. If you still wish to drive down this route, you can modify the itinerary till Nako/Tabo.
Note- I will be sharing the tips, Information and Contacts (places to visit) in my upcoming blog on Spiti. Stay tuned for more! Meanwhile, start brushing up your driving skills already!
P.S. A part of this blog has been originally written for “Just Wravel”.
A few Pictures were taken from Google Images (Kye Monastery and Night Sky)