Road trip to India's last Village "Chitkul"

Photo of Road trip to India's last Village "Chitkul" by Reshmi Nath

Travel is what makes me feel alive, looking at the dense forest, the cute little stream, the small hut behind the big banian tree, this is what keeps me alive.

When life was normal, when we could travel, when we were not asked to wear mask and gloves, I am talking about a beautiful December that I have spent right before the pandemic.

I am a solo traveler, it’s rare that I travel with group, every time people come to me with their plan I would either ignore them or I just make excuse and get away from the place, because it’s not easy to find a travel buddy who is as passionate as me. Travel for me is like meditation, where I don’t want to be disturbed by unnecessary troubles, but this time it was different I was blessed to find few friends who were as passionate as me and surprisingly we made plan.

We had 10 days that is from 24th December 2019 to 1st January 2020. My friends came up with places like Shimla, Kufri, Jibhi (mostly in himachal) but I was clue less I was searching for offbeat places and I Opened google map, that’s when I saw Chitkul and less than 10 seconds I decided that Chitkul is the place where I want to go, and everybody agreed.

About Chitkul: Chitkul is surrounded by majestic mountains, lush green forests, and the glistening Baspa river that flows through the valley. The village is home to a small population of around 600 people who primarily belong to the Kinnauri tribe. The people of Chitkul are known for their warm hospitality and traditional way of life. Small village located in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, India. It is situated at an altitude of 3,450 meters above sea level and is the last inhabited village near the Indo-Tibetan border. The village is known for its serene beauty, rich cultural heritage, and picturesque landscapes. One of the main attractions of Chitkul is its beautiful wooden houses that are built in a unique architectural style. The village is also home to the ancient Mathi Temple, which is believed to be around 500 years old and is dedicated to the local goddess, Mathi.

My Story

It was Thursday, 24th December, we warped up office early and by 10:30 Pm we started from Gurgaon. Our first destination was Shimla. It took us a while to reach Shimla because we were stopping in between for chai-sutta and sometimes just to stare the stars without any specific reasons.

With first ray of sunlight, we reached Shimla. Hotel was not booked but somehow we managed to get a very good room in Treebo. 25th morning we just relaxed and had good sleep, was getting ready for the Christmas celebration. Shimla looks extremely beautiful in Christmas. In the evening we explored the Shimla Mall road, went to church, did some shopping, ate good food.

Following are the few things which can be done in Shimla:

1- Try blueberry cheesecake from street side bakery.

2- Try coffee and mutton dosa in Indian coffee house

3- Just seat and watch the beautiful church under the dark sky

4- Street side shopping especially dry fruits its very cheap there and wooden jeweler box.

5- Night walks are amazing

6- Nothing can beat the roadside tea.

After spending couple of hours in Shimla town we went back to our hotel and slept. Before sleeping we made sure to pack all our bags to avoid last moment choose, because 26th was going to be a long day, initially our plan was to reach Reckong Peo by 26th night.

I woke up at morning 05:00, everyone else was sleeping. I sat for an hour in the balcony with a cup of coffee and watched the snowflakes dropping from the pine tree, cold wind passed through my ears touching my cheek and made me feel alive and I thanked God for giving me this beautiful life.

By 8.30 am we all geared up, had our breakfast, and left for the next adventure. Driving through the snow-covered road was amazing, we passed Kufri, Mashobra, Narkanda, Fagu etc. and finally stopped at Theog for lunch.

Theog is a beautiful village in the district of Shimla, Theog is not much explored by tourists and you won’t find many details in google, it is untouched and not commercialized. we parked our car in a mechanic shop which was very closed to the road and thought of walking a bit in the beautiful village and have our lunch, unknowing the fact that the market is 3km from the place we parked our car.

We just kept walking and walking and then after 3km of walking we saw a first shop. We had our lunch followed by tea. After lunch it was time to start for Chitkul. We all looked at each other and it was visible in everyone’s face that all wanted to stay in this beautiful village and admire the beauty, it is correctly said that “the journey is beautiful than the destination”. So, we decided to stay in Theog.

We walked thorough the market and and found a beautiful hotel, “The Hidimba” we spoke with the hotel manager and he said two rooms will cost us 1000 bucks without giving second thought we agreed. The rooms were very big, and it had washroom attached to it. We spent the 26th night in Theog.

Next morning, we started from Theog at 09:00 am for Reckong Peo, because Chitkul is 65 km from Reckong Peo and Reckon Peo is 200km from Theog. Our plan was to reach Reckong Peo by 05:00 Pm.

Reckong Peo comes under Kinnaur district, roads were bumpy, sharp blind turns, but the sight was wonderful. We stopped 3-4 times for lunch and tea and finally we reached Reckong Peo at 7.00 Pm. It was very cold; temperature must have been below 5 degree. We checked into the hotel “Shivlinga”. We could not explore much because it was dark and the hotel manager warned us to not roam around at night, so we decided to stay in the hotel. The night ended well with bonfire, we all wanted to sleep early that night because Chitkul was next destination, and we were super excited for next day.

I woke up at 5.25 am, it was 28th December, a beautiful december morning. Sun was about to come, It was freezing cold, coming out of bed was a great task. I came out of my bed went to balcony, seat there with glass of hot water for sun rise. It was treat to eyes, watching sun coming out of Trishul mountain.

The true charm of the mighty Himalayas can be viewed in Reckong Peo. Reckong Peo is the only place in the region where two of the greatest mountains can be seen, the Kailash and the Shivlanga pick I saw both and I was so happy that forgot to blink.

By 09:00 we all were dressed up and about to start for Chitkul. Chitkul is 3hrs from Reckong Peo but it took us 6 hours to reach because of the road condition, the road to Chitkul is very stiff, and narrow. Thanks to my friend and his brother, they were experienced in the mountain road, it was a plus point for us. Initially road was dusty and bumpy but after 2 km we started seeing snow, driving in black ice is challenging, because the tier keeps on sleeping. We passed thru few tiny villages which were completely covered in SNOW, we saw people cleaning the snow and making path. The roadside snow was more than a foot.

After about 4 hours we saw board "Welcome to the last village of india" at that moment we were so emotional which I can’t explain in words. My friend Gurvinder was so excited and happy that he stopped the car, came out and touched the soil and thanked god and thanked everyone for the trip.

The crisp, clean air and the stunning view, gigantic mountains, majestic peaks rise up to touch the sky, the beauty of the mountains leaves me awry, I felt alive, and renewed.

We entered the village, there were a few hotels and shops open, we parked our car and seat in a tea stall for tea and Maggie. it was freeing cold, temperature was below -15. We were not prepared for this temperature. Old monk helped us though.

It was like a fairytale, everything was covered in snow, seems like some has decorated the village in white, there were few more people like us came to the winter wonder land Chitkul, despite its harsh weather and strict environment.

We started looking for a hotel, it did not took us much time because, there were not much options to look from. We booked only one room, that was sufficient, after the check-in formalities we immediately went out to explore the village. we played in snow, clicked picture and set down to enjoy the sunset

Photo of Road trip to India's last Village "Chitkul" by Reshmi Nath

Our hotel

Photo of Road trip to India's last Village "Chitkul" by Reshmi Nath
Photo of Road trip to India's last Village "Chitkul" by Reshmi Nath
Photo of Road trip to India's last Village "Chitkul" by Reshmi Nath
Photo of Road trip to India's last Village "Chitkul" by Reshmi Nath

Next morning on 29th December we left Chitkul and started for Jibhi. Our plan was to reach Jibhi by night, however due to the rocky road we could not reach Jibhi, instated we stayed in Shoja. Soja is again another unexplored gem in Himachal, you can get incredible view of snow peak mountains, or if you want peace and looking for unexplored place than you should plan for Soja.

We reached Shoja at 6:00 Pm, and it took us some time to find a hotel/guest house. Shoja doesn’t have many hotels/homestays, however as it was new years eve, thus even more difficult to find a hotel. Finally, we found a homestay and we hop into that home stay. We took 15 minutes to stretch our body and they we left on foot to explore Shoja in evening, there we few cafes nicely decorated. We went to one of the cafes and played some game and had our dinner there.

On 30th morning we left for Jibhi which is 7 Km from Shoja. Jibhi is “hamlet" situated amidst the lush green forests and surrounded by variegated mountain, Jibhi is just the right place to relax and spend some peaceful moments with your loved ones. It has several camps and guest houses from which the many splendors of the area can be explored. It is also blessedly quiet so if you are like me who likes quite places than you should plan for Jibhi.

We checked into Green alpine homestay, Ohh dear God. The Home stay is so beautiful I just can’t explain in words. A wonderful 7 room guest house, being run by Manmohan ji and Mohinder ji. Beautifully constructed wooden architecture with beautiful engravings. It has a tree house, which costs around 3000 for 2, surprisingly the tree house was not occupied , I immediately booked the tree house, and my friends took the normal rooms. Rooms were quite big with all basic facilities like towels, hot water etc. bathrooms were big with right number and placing of hangers/racks/rails for hanging towels and clothes.

Photo of Road trip to India's last Village "Chitkul" by Reshmi Nath
Photo of Road trip to India's last Village "Chitkul" by Reshmi Nath
Photo of Road trip to India's last Village "Chitkul" by Reshmi Nath
Photo of Road trip to India's last Village "Chitkul" by Reshmi Nath

The stay in Jibhi was amazing. We took shower in hot water and then had lunch there, we had Siddu a famous Himachali dish. In the evening we explored Jibhi waterfall and then we went to Jibhi market to explore.

On 31st December we left from Jibhi for Tirthan valley. Tirthan Valley is 50km from Jibhi and it takes approx. an hour or more depending upon the traffic to reach the valley. We reached Tirthan valley around afternoon and booked a homestay, the homestay is not even in internet.

In the evening we went to river side and spent some quality time there and came back to our room. The home stay was a bit up from the road and it was very beautiful. We sat in the balcony and celebrated the new year in tirthan valley. It was a lifetime experience, welcoming the 2020 in mountain, unknowing what 2020 will bring.

On 1st January 2020 we stared from tirthan valley, it was our time to go back to our home. We reached Chandigarh in the evening and stayed in Chandīgarh that night and next day on 2nd January we reached home with memories of the amazing trip.

I hope you liked reading my experience. :)