Himalayan Circuit - Spiti & Kaza Valley

Photo of Himalayan Circuit - Spiti & Kaza Valley by TheFoodieGlobetrotter

There's a famous saying which goes as ..."Life was meant for Good Friends & Great Adventures. - unknown". And I guess this is the perfect tag-line for this crazy trip we have undertaken. Travelling has always been my first love from the time I could feel my existence in this planet.

The planning of this trip started one lazy December afternoon. Having nothing much work load in office and to kill time I just hit the Google search button feeding "Top adventurous tours in India". After going through several tour sites and blogs, finally I zeroed down to either "Leh-Ladakh" or "Spiti-Kaza" as both seemed to be equally thrilling. So on the same evening I pinged my gang too. At the initial phase we spoke with few tour groups that organizes adventurous tours to these exotic locations, but the amount they charge were quit hefty for us. Even many of my friends were not ready to join in this journey due to various personal constraints. By January end it was only the three of us ready for this crazy trip and we were determined to take this up by any means. My dear friend 'Adi' did all the research keeping in mind the pros and cons for 3 travellers that can be budget friendly. And I must say, he really did a great job. So, finally we decided to travel on June end when both Kunzum and Rohtang Pass is accessible and open for public. Myself Ms.Ras flew from Kolkata and joined the other two crazy buddies, Mr.Adi &Ms.Pin at New Delhi.

The Spiti & Kaza Valley that we covered is best known as Himalayan Circuit or Tribal Circuit by travellers. When compared to Leh-Ladakh, the valley we travelled is lesser known but its raw & untouched beauty is truly mesmerizing. In 8 days we have covered a total distance of approx 1700 km through plains, terrains and not to be mentioned -- World's Most Treacherous Road !!!

The circuit we took was Delhi --> Chandigarh --> Shimla --> Narkhand --> Sarahan --> Sangla -->Chitkul --> Rekong Peo --> Kalpa --> Nako --> Tabo --> Dhankar --> Kaza --> Kibber -->Kunzum Pass --> Chandratal --> Kunzum Pass --> Batal --> Rohtang Pass --> Manali --> Mandi -->Chandigarh --> Delhi

Photo of Himalayan Circuit - Spiti & Kaza Valley 1/1 by TheFoodieGlobetrotter
Himalayan Circuit Road Map
Day 1

The overnight journey from Delhi to Chandigarh was done by Volvo. From Chandigarh we took a self driven Scorpio and straight away headed to Shimla. There we had breakfast and started towards Sarahan to visit Bhimkali Temple. The way to Sarahan can be said to be of pastoral perfection filled with PineTrees, Stately Oaks, wild flowers and the enchanted sparsely populated villages. By late afternoon we reached the historical Indo-Tibetan style Bhimkali Temple which is regarded as one of the Fifty One sacred Shaktipeeths. This is a multi-storied structure of Hindu & Buddhist fusion housing the "Kuldevi"(The presiding deity of the dynasty) of Bushahr Kingdom. Artistic wood work of the temple is worth appreciating. One can also make a halt in one of the in-house guest house and take a leisure tour around the temple complex. But our target was to reach Sangla by evening, and so we made a quick exit from Sarahan. The distance from Sarahan to Sangla is hardly 100 km but the rocky terrain and us being totally new bees over there, took almost 4 hours to reach. The day came to an end with a simple dinner in one of the cozy guest house of Sangla.

L --> Shimla to Sarahan  :  M --> Bhimkali Temple  :  R --> Bridge connecting Sangla

Photo of Sangla, Himachal Pradesh, India by TheFoodieGlobetrotter
Day 2

Sangla is the major town of Baspa Valley with basic amenities of todays generation like petrol pump,bank, ATM, restaurants & bar, cybercafes to be precise. This Valley is a part of Kinnaur and it boasts of growing the world's best quality apples. Though we were not lucky enough to have those apples in June but we had a scrumptious breakfast at "Tibetan-Cafetaria" located at the heart of Sangla and headed towards Chitkul. This picturesque stretch is filled with forest slopes, Apricot & Apple orchards, Cedar trees and the numerous chirping streams. Chitkul is the last inhabited village near the Indo-China border and Potatoes grown at Chitkul are said to be one of the best in the world and are very costly. The actual border is under the control of Indian Paramilitary force ITBP and tourist are allowed till the main entrance only. After an hour halt in this windy landscape of serene beauty, we proceeded towards Kamru Fort in Sangla. This tower-like fort of Kamru is one of the oldest Fort in Himachal. The fort welcomes with an exotic Image of Lord Buddha on its Main Gate and a shrine of Kamkhya Devi installed on the third floor of the fort campus. The image of Kamkhya Devi, supposed to have been brought from Assam many years ago. It takes around 30 minutes on foot from the main entrance to the fort and the effort is worth it as you get a glimpse of the artistic legacy of past and the breathtaking beauty of Sangla Valley from the top. From Sangla we descended towards Reckong Peo to make a night halt at Kalpa. Reckong Peo or only Peo as used by localites is the headquarter of Kinnaur District and the entry point to the "HeavenLand" -Kalpa through hair pin bend curve road. Kalpa is just 13 km from this Serene town where we halted to get a glimpse of Mighty Kinnaur Kailash. We visited few Buddhist Monasteries on our way too.

Kinnaur Kailash

Photo of Kalpa, Himachal Pradesh, India by TheFoodieGlobetrotter
Day 3

We luckily got a room in one of the top floor of our hotel with the balcony facing Kinnaur Kailash. As the sun rose from behind the range, the beauty of Kailash multiplied several times. It's simply breathtaking. The soothing silence of the valley, sparse population, relatively lesser number of tourists and its faraway location from the cacophony of bustling city life kept Kalpa as the Untouched Beauty in the Lap of Himachal Pradesh till date. Apart from the scenic beauty there isn't much tourist spots in Kalpa. As for us we made a quick visit to Hu-Bu-Lan-Khar monastery and Durga temple before en-routing to Nako and Tabo. The journey from Kalpa to Nako is not for the faint hearted specimens. One needs to pass through the World's most treacherous road with added surprises of shooting stones. Approx distance from Kalpa to Nako is 100 km and once you cross this troublesome road, you are rewarded with the unspoilt scenic bliss of Nako. We visited Nako Lake located amidst the village. The natural beauty of the Lake was very much apt to perform yoga and by co-incidence it was International Yoga Day too. So we hurriedly took few snaps performing some Yoga poses with the Nako Lake as background and headed towards Tabo for our night stay.

Tabo is a fascinating small town with the 1000 year old Tabo Monastery and the in-numerous caves located over the scenic and serene landscapes of this valley. The Monastery has a lot to offer for hungry travellers like us. One can find the priceless collections of scroll paintings, manuscripts, frescos and extensive mural on the walls of this monastery. The artificially excavated magnificent caverns which are referred to as "Tabo Caves" are used by monks for meditation or as assembly halls. During winter these historical embodiments serve as a saviour from the harsh climate.

L -->  Nako lake  :  M --> World's Most Treacherous Road  :  R --> Tabo Monastery

Photo of Tabo, Himachal Pradesh, India by TheFoodieGlobetrotter
Day 4

Early next morning we started from Tabo towards Kaza. On the way we visited Dhankar Monastery located atop a high hillock. This monastery is listed among the 100 endangered sites in the world due to its harsh climate and is mostly inaccessible during winter. One can get an amazing view of the low land and the rough terrains from the windows of Dhankar Gompa.

By late afternoon we reached Kaza which is best described as "A world within a world". It is one of the largest township and center of all the major activities in Lahual & Spiti Valley. One can also find the world’s highest altitude retail outlet petrol pump here. If you are travelling towards Manali via Chandratal, it is very much recommended that we get a full tank in Kaza itself. After booking our accommodation for that night we planned to visit Keh and Kibber monastery which is about 13 km from Kaza town. Kibber is the world's highest village connected by motorable road and it has got unique houses made of stone. Even the trails to Kibber is truly mesmerizing. Passing through the narrow lanes of this village we reached Kibber Monastery located at the highest point of it. One can get a splendid view of the village from there. After spending about an hour, we descended towards Keh Monastery or Keh Gompa. Undoubtedly I can say, Keh Monastry is thousand times more spectacular than what I have seen in Google. It claims to be the largest Monastery of Spiti Valley and it can accommodate around 250 monks. Spending a night there and star gazing would have been a fantastic thing, but we were short of time and so we headed back to our accommodation in Kaza.

L --> Kibber Monastery  :  M --> Sakya Monastery  :  R --> Keh Monastery

Photo of Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, India by TheFoodieGlobetrotter
Day 5

We made an early exit from Kaza to reach Chandrataal Camp site by afternoon which was approx 60km. The narrow passage winding around the mountains, just broad enough to allow only one vehicle to pass at a time makes the journey supper exciting for adventure junkies. The other factor for our Adrenalin rush was because of Kunzum Pass and its jaw dropping landscapes. From top of Kunzum Pass one can view the majestic Bara-Sigri and also the Chandrabhaga mountain and Spiti valley. There's also Kunzum Devi Temple with fluttering colourful prayer flags all around, and the Goddess residing over there is believed to guard the pass and wards off evil. By evening we managed to reach the campsite of Mr.Bishon where he welcomed us with chai and biscuit and allotted a cozy tent for the night stay. The lake is about 3 km from the camp site and so we decided to drive our Scorpio. The last half km needs to be trekked on foot which will merely take 15 minutes and one can spot the lake from a distant due to the greenish blue waters. Chandrataal is a crescent shaped sweet water lake and is considered as one of the beautiful lakes of our Himalayas. After taking snaps of this marvellous place to our hearts content we decided to return to our camp as the weather was turning out to be pretty cold. The day temperature of Chandrataal is quite warm and at night it suddenly drops to minus degree centigrade accompanied by windy atmosphere even in summer. We could hardly sleep because of the temperature variant and experienced mild headache.

L --> Kunzum Pass   :   R --> Chandrataal Lake

Photo of Chandra Taal, Himachal Pradesh by TheFoodieGlobetrotter
Day 6

The target for our 6th day was to reach Manali which was about 150 km from Chandrataal. Ideally it takes around 7 hours , but we were not lucky enough that day. Just after travelling for an hour we saw a pile of vehicles in halted state. A major portion of the narrow lane was washed away and the maintenance team was working hard to repair at the earliest. It took almost 5 hours to resume our journey. Inspite of the hurdle, the view of the in-numerous beautiful streams that were flowing due to melting of glaciers compensated for everything. By late afternoon we reached Rohtang pass which acts as the gateway to Lahaul and Spiti valleys. Literal meaning of Rohtang is "pile of corpses" because of the loss of many lives due to unpredictable snowstorms. Overlooking this aspect, one can have a wonderful view of the beautiful sights of glaciers, peaks, Lahaul Valley and the Chandra River from Rohtang Pass. Soon after devouring stomach full of Maggi at Marhi, we descended towards Manali for night stay. After braving through the evening traffic of Manali we managed to get a cozy hotel in the heart of Mall Road.

Rohtang Pass

Photo of Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by TheFoodieGlobetrotter
Day 7

The morning half was spent in window shopping through the lanes of Mall Road and visiting Hidimba Devi Temple surrounded by cedar forest at the foot of the Himalayas. The temple is dedicated to Hidimba Devi, wife of Bhima and believed to be built around 1553 by Raja Bahadur Singh. By afternoon we en-routed towards Mandi for our night halt. The road from Manali to Kullu is filled with cluster of valleys and the Beas River flowing on your left side. Adventure freaks can also opt for River Rafting and paragliding here. A few kilometer from Kullu you will be greeted by a 3 km long tunnel,named as Larji Aut Tunnel. It was constructed a few years ago to divert the highway when the older road got submerged by Beas river after a dam was built over it at Larji. Finally by dinner time we to reached Mandi for our night halt.

Day 8

On our 8th day, Early morning we started for Chandigarh as we had to catch a connecting train to Delhi. All those mesmerizing views, the valleys, twinkling streams started to disappear and the concrete world welcomed us.

These 8 days of our life can be summed up as "Out of the world". The journey was hectic, tiresome and mostly dangerous. But once you merge into the heaven like cocoon of Himalaya, all the negative aspects will vanish. These spectacular valleys are the perfect example of Vibrant Hindu & rich Buddhist culture amalgamation filled with ancient monasteries, lofty ranges, sparkling rivers and abundant flora and fauna. Anyone who considers himself/herself as a travel freak must surely visit these valleys for its enchanting beauty.

For more details about budget, personal recommendations & pictures you can visit my original blog.

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