Spiti Valley - An Ideal Itinerary - THE CLUELESS MUNI

Photo of Spiti Valley - An Ideal Itinerary - THE CLUELESS MUNI 1/1 by The Clueless Muni

Literally meaning 'Middle Land', Spiti Valley lies on the border between India and Tibet on the Trans-Himalayan Range in Himachal Pradesh. The Roads through the region are treacherous, the mountains unforgiving and the cold, ruthless. Yet, every year as the snow clears and the passes open up, adventurists flock to the valley to conquer it's grueling stretch starting from after Rampur Bushahr to Gramphu, a distance of roughly 500 kms through no man's land, devoid of any sort of connection with the outside world. A lesser known neighbor of Ladakh, Spiti is truly a world in itself. Demanding, deadly and breath-taking all at the same time.

With just two entry points to the region; one via Shimla at the bottom and the other through Manali at the top, the Spiti circuit remains cut off from the rest of India for the major part of the year due to heavy snowfall along both these routes. It's no wonder that its one of the least populated regions in the country with much of it being either inhospitable or unexplored.

Entering the valley through the Shimla side is more preferred owing to a much more gradual ascend that goes a long way in acclimatizing your body for much higher altitudes later on in the route as compared to the Manali side which is already at a high altitude. It also saves you an additional day or two that will otherwise be lost in getting permits for Rohtang Pass if you happen to be coming from Manali.

Irrespective of the side you choose to enter Spiti, do not forget to check whether Kunzum Pass is open for traffic - without which you'll neither be able to enter the valley from Manali nor will you be able to exit after Losar while coming from Shimla, meaning you'll have to turn around and go all the way back to Shimla.

This six-day itinerary covers almost all the must see gems of the valley starting from Shimla and ending with Gramphu and is one that I have personally followed in June 2017. Barring a few stops like Kalpa, Shipki La, Gue and Pin Valley, the rest of which I can vouch for and will definitely be worth your visit. If you happen to be coming from Delhi, you may choose to camp at Narkanda, Rampur Bushahr or Sarahan instead of Shimla for the first night as these places are devoid of the tourist rush as seen in Shimla but are just as scenic. However, the below itinerary starts from Shimla for ease of reference. You may adjust your itinerary accordingly.

The idea is not to limit your trip to six days or just to these places but rather to plan it keeping these places and your time frame in mind. But do keep in mind that traveling to Spiti Valley is unlike any other place in the Country and you never know when or if you'll be back here. So focus on the journey rather than the destination as the journey is an adventure in itself and try to see as much of it as possible and be rest assured, there's plenty to see. With vistas changing at every turn of the road, it truly is a feast for the eyes and soul.

DAY 1: Shimla-Rampur Bushahr-Sangla-Chitkul (250 kms)

Places of Interest:

Chitkul - A little hamlet tucked away amongst snow-clad mountains and famed for being the last inhibited village on the Indo-Tibetann border, one must deviate around 75 kms towards Sangla from Karcham Dam in order to reach Chitkul. Other places of interest along the route include the Kamru Fort at Sangla.

Where to Stay: The Baspa River Camp located on the banks of the river Baspa at Chitkul offer a variety of tents depending upon your budget or you could simply pitch your own tent outside their property. You could also opt for the relatively more expensive home stays at Chitkul Village. Sangla, located almost 25 kms from Chitkul however has the major share of home stays.

Fuel Stations: Rampur, Jeori, Tapri, Sangla

Read about my adventures at this fairy tale of a place here.

DAY 2: Chitkul-Kalpa-Nako (163 kms)

Places of Interest:

Kalpa - A small town in the Sutlej river valley, above Recong Peo famous for its apple orchards and that offers majestic views of the Kinner Kailash.

Khab - Besides the confluence of Spiti & Satluj rivers one can also get a glimpse of the Leo Purygal peak from the Khab bridge.

Shipki La - A high pass (5669 meter) connecting India to Tibet and also the very place from where Satluj enters to India. The entry to Shipki La is highly restricted and special permit is required to be obtained from DC office, Rekong Peo and requires a 30km uphill deviation from Khab.

Nako - A quaint little village nestled high up in the mountains, it houses the Nako monastery & a small Lake.

Where to Stay: Nako has several home stays available as it is usually a one night stop for travelers entering or exiting Spiti Valley.

Fuel Station: Make sure to have your tanks and jerry cans filled up at Powari or Recongpeo as the next petrol pump in only at Kaza, almost 200 kms away.

DAY 3: Nako-Tabo-Dhankar-Kaza (130 kms)

This route forms part of the Hindustan - Tibet Highway and is also home to some of the world's treacherous roads.

Places of Interest:

Sumdo - Check post from where Spiti Valley officially starts.

Gue Village -Home to India's only known naturally preserved mummy. Requires a 15-20 km deviation from Sumdo.

Tabo - The second largest town of Spiti Valley that houses the Tabo Monastery, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Dhankar - Home to the Dhankar Monastery located on a cliff overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers and the Dhankar Lake that requires a 2 km uphill trek from the monastery. If possible, attempt the trek early morning or in the evening and carry sufficient amounts of water and sun protection as the Sun can get dangerously rough and there is no escaping the heat in the arid landscape.

Pin Valley (Kungri - Sagnam - Mud - Tailing) - Pin valley is the base for Pin Valley National Park which is the natural habitat of the Snow Leopard and Himalayan Ibex. Mud Village requires a 30-40 km deviation from Attargo, near Dhankar. If you plan to visit the place, it's better to spend a night or two here and keep Kaza for the next day in order to fully take in the vistas. I had personally skipped Pin valley as I found it more meaningful to spend the extra day saved exploring the rest of Spiti and in order to go easier on the body and machines.

Kaza - The district headquarters of Spiti Valley, Kaza is a full-fledged town made for tourists, by tourists with one or two functional ATM's, a petrol pump, accommodation of all ranges and shops selling everything that a traveler could need around these parts. It even has a mini Decathlon! Although there is nothing to see in Kaza per se, you might want to consider a rest day here to acclimatize before heading forward.

Where to stay: Accommodations of all sizes and budgets are available at Kaza including a branch of Zostel. Home stays are also available at Tabo.

Read the full story behind my journey to Kaza and the magical night spent at Nako here.

Fuel Station: Kaza, home to Indian Oil's world's highest retail outlet.

DAY 4: Kaza-Langza-Komic-Hikkim-Kaza-Key (50 kms)

Places of Interest:

Langza - Famous for its giant and colorful Buddha statue and picturesque location, Langza is set amidst green meadows against the backdrop of rugged snow-capped mountains and offers grand views of the Chau Chau Kang Nelda peak.

Komic - Declares itself as the highest village in the world connected by a motorable road. It also has the Tanggyuda monastery located above the village which is one of India's highest altitude Gompas and considered one of the most important ones in Spiti Valley.

Hikkim - Home to the world's highest post office. Sending a postcard to your loved ones back home from here is a memory that both you and those back home can cherish.

Key - Famous for its 1000 year old monastery, one of the biggest in Spiti that stands gloriously overlooking the Spiti River despite a rough history of enemy attacks, severe earthquakes and fire.

Where to Stay: Dorms are available at Key Monastery for INR 200 a night (including meals). The only other option is the Noryang Restaurant located right in front of the monastery. Both these options have limited rooms and may run out during peak season. A few guest houses are also available at the nearby village of Kibber, 7 kms from Key.

Fuel Station: Make sure to fill up petrol from Kaza as the next petrol pump is only at Tandi or Manali, almost 200 kms away.

To get a better idea about these places, read my detailed travelogue across these high altitude villages here.

DAY 5: Key-Kibber-Kunzum La-Chandrataal (80 kms)

The recently completed Chicham Bridge now lets you reach Losar directly from Key via Kibber and Chicham villages without having to go back to Kaza. And the views along this route are simply mind-blowing.

Places of Interest:

Kunzum Top (the highest point along Kunzum Pass) - Besides stunning views of the Chandra Bhaga peaks, one can also find a temple dedicated to Goddess Durga here where it is considered auspicious to do a parikrama (to go around a sacred object) of the temple for blessings for the journey up ahead. On your way down from Kunzum Top, do keep a look out for the deviation towards Chandra Taal as there weren't any sign boards and missing it would mean you'd have to go till Batal to take the next deviation. It is also on this stretch from Kunzum to Gramphu, where you'll encounter a number of water crossings, with few of them almost a kilometer long.

Chandra Taal - A high altitude lake (4300 mts) literally meaning 'Moon Lake' due to its crescent shape and hidden away deep in the mountains, it is a must visit. On reaching the camp grounds at Chandrataal, vehicles can only go till the lake parking area from where it is another 10-15 minute light trek to the lake.

Where to stay: Swiss tents are the only accommodation available at Chandra Taal. Prices start from INR 1500 and upwards (meals included). One can also stay at Chacha Chachi's Chandra Dhaba at Batal for INR 100-200 a night that offers the bare minimum facilities. There is also a PWD rest house opposite the Dhaba. However it's best to enquire beforehand regarding its availability. You may also pitch your own tent after taking permission from one of the camp sites at Chandrataal for INR 300 per tent including permission to use their toilets. However, camping in proximity to the lake is prohibited due to ecological concerns

Read the full story behind the freezing night spent at Chandrataal and my journey up ahead here.

Fuel Stations: None

DAY 6: Chandrataal-Gramphu (65 kms)

Gramphu is the exit point from Spiti Valley on to the Manali-Leh highway from where you can either head upwards towards Ladakh or downwards towards Manali through Rohtang Pass depending on where you're headed. Roads from Chandrataal to Gramphu are non-existent and are guaranteed to push your machine to its limits. Highly advisable to carry some basic spares and puncture kits as most of the breakdowns happen along this stretch. But bad roads aside, you're greeted with some of the best vistas along the route as you enter Lahaul Valley and bid farewell to Spiti.

Where to stay: There are no options for stay at Gramphu and you'll either have to head to Keylong or Manali both of which are almost 50-60 kms in either directions from Gramphu.

Fuel Stations: There are no petrol pumps on this stretch. The next one after Kaza is only at Tandi or Manali.

In case you have anything to add or have any specific queries, please feel free to a drop a comment in the comments section below and I shall try my best to answer them. If you found this post helpful, please do subscribe to the blog.

Don't be clueless on your next trip to Spiti Valley. Read my detailed guide to this mystic land about road conditions, weather, accommodation and more here.