Spiti valley is a place of dreams. It is the white wonderland of India. The trans-himalayan ranges when covered in snow, makes our heart skip a beat. For all the travelers out there, a roadtrip to Spiti valley in winter will warm your heart and your soul. There is no better time than Christmas to be amidst the snowy Himalayan peaks.
The snowcapped mountains of Himalayas, wispy clouds, frozen waterfalls and the red-headed Himalayan fox makes the place utterly irresistible. The extreme conditions in which the locals live teaches a lesson for a lifetime. If there is one destination that makes my heart go weak in my knees, it is The Himalayas and Spiti with its numerous Himalayan peaks makes sure to steal one's heart right away.
Whenever I travel I believe in looking for the soul of the place rather than just ticking off the sightseeing spots. And I decided the best way to see Spiti was by living the local life and it was possible only during winter when the herds of tourists don't throng the place.
Spiti is one of the country's sought out road trip destinations during summer while winter still remains a low key. Finding a guide to Spiti for winter travel was a task before.
So I put together all the details needed for you to travel to Spiti during winters. I had made sure to include all the possible details out there into one single post. This should be sufficient enough for you to plan an epic winter roadtrip to Spiti Valley.
Let's start with the Pros and Cons of travelling to Spiti during winter
-If you ever have believed in fairytales and magic, ( err read Frozen here, even till date I watch the movie with awe) then visiting Spiti during winter is a must. The place looks jaw droppingly beautiful.
- You will be the only set of people visiting Spiti apart from the locals living there, which means you get to witness the unadulterated beauty of the place and have it all to yourself.
-If you're lucky enough, you will be a part of a snowfall in action. (I wasn't lucky I guess but jumping into fresh snow the first thing in the morning was close enough for me)
-Everything that's worth in life comes with its own set of hurdles. The weather in Spiti during winter is HARSH and COLD (has the ability to even freeze your blood, the temperatures drop till -30 degrees at night)
-There is no running water, almost all the taps are frozen in that weather. Be prepared for dry toilets. There are few homestays that provides hot water in buckets to clean yourself up. (this is nothing close to nice hot spring shower, use them only when needed, remember water shortage, so use them wisely)
- The most important of the lot, there is literally no oxygen in the air. It's a mountainous desert and in winter it's just a sea of snow. You'll have to be medically backed up to withstand adverse conditions
-All the shops, restaurants and cafes are closed during winter, which translates into no shopping and café hopping. It doesn't mean there is no food, obviously there is better home cooked meals served hot on your plate for almost every meal.
- There is only one primary health-care centre in Kaza, so in case you fall sick, that is your only goto place for survival.
- Expect road closures due to snowfalls and driving on snow and ice.
Possibility of taking the roadtrip to Spiti in winter
One of the most asked question is the possibility of doing the roadtrip to Spiti during winter. YES, it is possible to go to Spiti even during the months of November, December and January. Only the route from Manali is closed. The road from Shimla to Spiti via Kalpa is open throughout the year. So you'll have to take the same road to and fro Spiti.
The roads are in pretty bad shape, basically no roads and to top it you will have to cross Pangi Valley (considered to be one of the world's most dangerous roads) but then there is no point in taking a roadtrip if you aren't game of a bit adventure, ain't it!
Who all can go to Spiti during winter?
Anyone with breathing issues, asthma, bronchitis and chest congestion, forget about stepping into Spiti during winter. You will have to get medically certified to travel, even then I wouldn't suggest cause the conditions in the place can change adversely and too quickly for us to even react. Kids are also not advised to be on the trip as they are the first ones to be prone to oxygen deficiency. Apart from the ones mentioned, anyone with a strong will can travel to Spiti to witness the magic.
Transportation & Route
Forget frequency of buses in this route. There is one government bus that leaves Reckong Peo at 7 am in the morning to Kaza. This is the only bus for the entire day and the tickets also cannot be booked in advance. So if you're planning a budget travel, you will have to be at the bus stand at 7 to take the one and only bus to Kaza.
The best way is to take the taxi (few ply from Rampur to Kaza on daily basis, costs around 1000 bucks per seat I guess) or spend a bit more and pre-book a cab for your entire roadtrip to Spiti. The road from Shimla is open so that's the only way to reach Spiti. The route from Rohtang pass and Kunzum La is closed during winter making Manali circuit impossible to do during these months.
TIP: It is better to break the trip into 2-3 days starting from Shimla to Kaza by resting it out at Reckong Peo, Kalpa and Tabo before finally reaching Kaza. This way you'll gain altitude slowly and get acclimatised to the cold before entering the freeze zone.
Weather in Winter
The climate of Spiti throughout winter is bone-numbingly cold. October to March is the perfect time to experience winter in Spiti. While in October the temperature hovers around an average of 8 degrees celsius during the daytime, at night the mercury touches -10 degrees when snowfall flourishes at its best. October to December experiences least sunshine but mostly the conditions are cloudy, foggy, and there's plenty of snowfall around. During December - January, the temperature at night falls even below -25-degrees celsius.