Spiti- a place where you can feel magic and not just natural but supernatural, all around
There are no words to describe the magnificence of Spiti, the best that can be done to define Spiti is to see for yourself and that’s what exactly was done.
Before we begin here is some basic info about itinerary and plans.
Delhi- Panchkula-Rampur Bushahr-Nako-Tabo-Kaza-Kibber-Chicham-Losar-Kunzum Top- Chandratal-Batal-Rohtang Pass-Manali-DelhiTotal Distance – Around 1600 Km
Duster- Diesel-85 PS, 2 occupants and both capable of driving
Total Duration- 6 days
Delhi|Rampur Bushahr| Tabo|Kaza|Chandratal|Delhi
……………Let’s Begin the Road Trip to the Magical Wonderland of Spiti…………..
Day 1 | 490 kms |Delhi- Punchkula-Shimla-Narkanda- Rampur Bushahr
The journey began from Delhi at 0500 hours. All the necessary supplies were already pre-loaded, so as to not waste any time in the morning. After crossing through Panipat, Ambala, first halt was at Panchkula. This is where my partner joined me.
Good Metalled road
This looked fabulous, so week took a break here
Had a small lunch of Chole Kulcha at a road side stall, just after crossing Shimla. Then came Narkanda and it was beautiful, we had to take a call, whether to stay at Narkanda or cover more distance. We decided to cover some more distance as it would be beneficial next day.
Remember to get fuel at Narkanda. There is an Indian Oil fuel station just outside Narkanda, towards Rampur Bushahr. It is always better to fill up, whenever you get a chance/before half tank then waiting till the end.
We ended our day at Rampur Bushahr. We stayed at Hotel Nau Nabha, got a good deal here and no prebooking was done. Depending on your time of visit, you can do the pre-bookings.
Dinner, some essential shopping and then down on the bed. That was the end of Day -1.
Day 2| 270 Kms | Rampur Bushahr- Badhal- Powari-Pooh-Nako- Tabo
We began our journey at 0700 hours. The route is pretty scenic here but beware, drivers have to keep eyes on the road.
our breakfast point.This is around and hour’s drive from Rampur Bushahr.
The Hindi translation of this word means a very bad or sorry state but after having breakfast here, it was like heaven
You will find waterfalls like these on your entire journey
There is a History Behind these, hand chiseled mountains. NH5 ( formerly known as NH22), has in it parts of Hindustan Tibet road, so actually, you travel through some parts of the Hindustan Tibet road.
It was the then governor general of India, Lord Dalhousie, who ordered construction of Hindustan Tibet Highway, in order to boost trade ties with Tibet. So, Hindustan Tibet Highway, is the road from Kalka to all way upto Shipki La.
Rampur Bushahr, Wangtu, Tapri, Pooh,Khab are some common parts of NH5 and Hindustan Tibet Road. It is at Khab that you move from NH5 to NH505 and there is a cut towards ShipkiLa Pass and to Tibet
All this way, you will be moving along side the Sutlej river and many of us read about Nathpa-Jhakri, you will find this on your route.
Once, you start from Rampur Bushahr, you will cross Jeori, Wangtu, Tapri, before reaching this point, at Karcham.
If you plan to go to Chitkul and you should, this is your point aka Sangla-Chitkul road.
But, we had to move on
After you cross Karacham, if you intend to move on and don’t wish to halt for the day at Kalpa/Reckong Peo, don’t miss the HP Petrol pump at Powari. This will be around 13 kms from Karacham. Else if you wish to retire at Kalpa/Reckong Peo, then fill up your tanks here. Also, take extra fuel here, depending on your vehicle’s average and the fact that the average is gonna come down drastically, when compared to the plains. And from here till Kaza there is no petrol pump and consider the odds, no fuel/fuel shortage at Kaza.
Now, get set for some bumpy rides
There was a land slide, but thanks to BRO|GREF, the landslide was quickly cleared. Also, there is some road widening work going on. Also, on this road you will see signs like, “Shooting Stone Area”, be careful, keep your eyes on the road as well as on the mountain
When you reach Khab, there will be two things that you would see, confluence of Spiti and Sutlej river and a diversion towards Shipkila Pass on Hindustan Tibet Highway/NH5. Post, Khab, you will be moving on NH505.
Now, you will be moving alongside Spiti river and mind it, you are still not in Spiti Valley.
Moving on towards Nako, you will see hanging stones and it appears, these stones can fall anytime. This area has a very high potential for landslide. A friend of mine was stuck at Nako because of landslide, but he found a way to cross over to the other side. So drive carefully.
This is how villages are there in this area, green out of nowhere.
Hand plucked from apple orchard around Nako. And this is not polished
Nako- our lunch point, plus there is Nako Monastery, Nako Lake, you can also stay here. There were a few homestays here.
When you cross Nako, there is Malling Nalla, but the BRO/GREF have made the road cemented over there, so we were able to cross the Malling Nalla without any major issues. But ,this doesn’t mean you should let go the caution. Be cautious while crossing all the Nallah’s as there would be many in route. At few points you would feel, it’s not a Nallah in a road but vice-versa.
So, after driving from Nako, you reach Sumdo and this is the point, where the Spiti Valley starts. There is a police check post at Sumdo, get down and register yourself. Non-Indian Nationals need to obtain Inner Line Permits, before crossing over from Sumdo to Spiti Valley. [ Visit HP Tourism Website for Information ].
So, after doing our registration at Sumdo, we proceeded ahead and after some more driving, there it was.
We stayed at Dikit Norfel Tigerden homestay ( +91-9418646578/+919418817761). If you wish to stay in Monastery, pre-book ( The nos of Monastery guest house +91-8988107473 and +91-94189843400). The feeling at this area was peaceful and unlike other monasteries in the area that you are going to see ahead, Tabo Monastery is located in flat area, whilst others are perched on mountain/hill top. There are homestays around in this area, so you are going to get a place to stay, but don’t arrive late. First, rooms might get filled up and second, night driving is risky when you don’t have the terrain in your mind and muscle memory.
Some Ginger lemon hot water at monastery canteen, dinner and then down on the bed that was the end of Day 2. But, wait a minute, if you love the night sky and this is the place. Take out your camera, get the perfect settings and it’s beautiful above us.
Day 3 |130 Km| Tabo-Dhankar Monastery-Kaza-Hikkim-Komic-Lanza-Kaza
We reached Tabo at around 1800 hours in the evening and the monastery was closed then, so this was the day for us to get in. We began our journey at 0730 hours, but before that some glimpses of Tabo Monastery.
that’s the old monastery, the one for which you read 996 AD above
That’s the new monastery. the picture isn’t clear but the tree you see on the left are apple trees and there were many.
After, spending some time here, we moved on towards the next point i.e. Dhankar Monastery. We did take some halts in between as we just couldn’t miss the scenes around.
Bank of Spiti River. Spent half an hour here, just sitting on the bank of Spiti river
View down from Dhankar Monastery
Dhankar Monastery, perched on the top of the mountain. Almost all the monasteries are built this way because in ancient times, there were wars among rulers of different regions and to preserve their belongings, the kings got the monasteries built on top.
View from Dhankar Monastery
After being at Dhankar Monastery for some time, we moved on. If you wish to stay at Dhankar Monastery guesthouse pre-book.
(Dhankar Monastery guest house+91-9418646578 /+919418817761).
Next stop Kaza, so after, that HP Petrol Pump, it is here that you will find an Indian Oil Petrol Pump, actually’s world’s highest petrol pump. Fill up. Extra fuel could come in handy, as it may happen that because of the acts of nature, the petrol pump may run dry and also next petrol pump will be in Manali, so in terms of fuel you have to prepared.
We had our lunch here at Kaza and thanks to some good advise at Kaza. Hikkim ( World’s Highest Post Office), Komic ( World’ Highest Motorable) & Langza ( having a Gautam Buddha statue) that was our revised plan as they could be done in a day.
Don’t forget to send a postcard from world’s highest post office. We did carry a post card with us but there were no stamps, so lesson learnt is that carry stamps for a safe side. Although, we would like to thank the post master Rinchin Cheering, who said that he would send our post cards, once he receives the stamps.
Hikkim. You will find kids playing and running there. That’s a personal advise, have some chocolates or cookies with you. Give it to the kids. At this altitude you don’t have much and also almost nothing grows here. And people here travel mostly on foot as there is less of public transport.
Meet Him, Rinchin Cheering. He is the post master at world’s highest post office. And at 14567 feet, the less oxygen does pinch. How less oxygen, well at sea level there is 100 % oxygen ( technically, 20.9% of the whole air) and at 14567 feet there is 57.4 % oxygen of that found at sea level and everest death zone has 33 % oxygen of that found at sea level
Because of some technical issue have no photos of Komic and Langza 😦
Now, after the triad, which can definitely be done in a day, we headed back to Kaza and relaxed and roamed around Kaza.
We stayed at Kunzom Spiti Inn (+91-9459570333/+91-9459887467). There are other options also to stay in Kaza, choose what suits you.
So, after a cup of coffee, we had dinner and retired to our bed, that was the end of Day 3. Astrophotographers don’t forget to take out your camera here at night.
Day 4|110 Km| Kaza-Key-Kibber-Chicham-Losar-Chandratal
We started our day at 0715 hours. We first headed straight towards Key Monastery
After our time at Key Monastery, our next stop was Kibber Village. We were lucky here as we able to see a Buddhist ceremony here. There is a homestay here at Kibber, if you have some extra, should definitely stay here, it’s so peaceful.
You will stupas like these. It is said, if do not wish to continue the journey ahead, take a circle of this Stupa and move ahead ,much like traffic circles, but these stupas are highly revered.
Ceremony of Buddhist Monks of Key Monastery. These Monks are enroute from Key Monastery to Chicham Village, where they will be reciting sacred manuscripts.
Watch the ceremony “Buddhist Monks“
After Kibber Village, we moved towards Chicham, this place has Asia’s highest suspension bridge.
Chicham bridge. If you were to begin your return journey from Kaza, don’t take, NH505, rather take the route from Chicham, it’s better and not bumpy at all. The roads are all metalled unlike NH505.
Next stop, Losar, Lunch here.
There is also a police checkpost at Losar. Do your registration here and move on.
After Losar, next came in the Kunzum Top.
Fluttering Flags,Kunzumpass, that’s 15059 feet
After you cross Kunzumpass, there will be a cut for Chandrataal road. It’s a highly bumpy road, if a car from other side comes, you just can’t pass, so if you see a vehicle and have an area, where you can stop and let the other vehicle pass, just do so, don’t think , there will be space up ahead and there may not be.
From the camps, there is a road that goes to parking. from there, it is around 25 min walk to the lake. Try to go to the parking site by vehicle, else on foot,it is a steep climb and you will be out of breadth.
Chandrataal Camp site
We stayed at Chandtraal Camp Site. There are options here to stay. It’s good, if you pre -book, in our case we didn’t.
There goes Day 4, but before the end, there were huge gusts of cold wind, but later in the night, things turned tranquil. This is a great spot for astro-photography.
If you wish to skip Chandrataal, you can stay at Batal, there are two dhabas and one camp site at Batal.
Day 5| 460 kms|Chandrataal-Batal- RohtangPass-Manali-Panchkula
On morning of Day 5, at the Chandrataal Camp Site, there was icing on wind shield, windows of my vehicle. Switched, on the the car and the heater to make the icing go away. A word of caution, don’t pour hot water to melt the ice, this can crack your windshield,window.
This journey was a marathon driving session, starting at 0615 hours and stopping at 0015 hours, the next day. Off course, there were lunch and dinner breaks but because of a commitment this had to be done.
The Road tests your driving skills like anything.
That’s the road, Batal onwards and unlike previous runs of the journey, this entire road is like this till Gramphu. We were travelling at less than 15 kms per hour, so don’t just google maps.
Also there is no network, so google maps doesn’t know, it’s just offline map, that works
That’s Chenab river.
Another shot of Chenab river
A Water Stream
There are many crossing like these, just look down, look at rocks. Had to take the vehicle over these rocks, without them hitting the bottom
Enroute to Rohtang PassAnd there it is, Rohtang Pass, 13051 feet. After reaching Rohtang Pass, one can say that mission accomplished, but there was still a lot of distance to go
That’s the Beas River in Manali
After this, it was pretty much normal
Day 6 | 250 Kms | Panchkula- Delhi
This was mostly driving. Reached Panchkula at 0015 hours after starting the journey on Day 5, so stayed back in Panchkula. Left for Delhi, early morning and reached back the starting point.
Journey Concluded…It was magic. You don’t believe in magic and supernatural unless you see it and this whole journey, was magical and supernatural. Four rivers- Sutlej, Spiti, Chenab, Beas; Waterfalls/Nallahs on Road and Vice-Versa, Test of Driving Skills
But in the end, be there to believe the magic.
Thankyou, Spiti & Thankyou, people of Spiti
How to Plan
- You can optimize your itinerary, but keep it flexible, when the plan was conceived, the number of visit days were more, but our plans had to be altered for some reasons. One thing was sure, if not this time then the things will get delayed for a long time.
- When to Visit is an important question. But, with the anomalous weather patterns these days, that’s a tough call to take. But, few things we always have to remember before fitting up the itinerary. Mountains, have their own weather, also known as local weather. Further, avoid rainy reasons and use not just one but more than one weather forecast site to figure out your plan. Though, it can be said that June’s Good, depending on Indian monsoon, can pick first week of July. 2nd last week of september- till 1st week of october also is good. But, again, study weather before taking your call.
- Which route to take. There are basically, two routes, enter from rohtang pass/manali side and exit towards Shimla and vice-versa. Do the latter, as you gain altitude slowly and can adapt well to changing altitude. And offcourse, parts of route closes in winter. In winter you can only do the Shimla side and that too upto Kaza.
- Acclimatisation is important. Diamox, is a medicine, you can take, but first always try the natural way, bigger problems, if your body becomes used to working only with medicine. Drink warm water, eat things which have liquid in them. Exercise and maximize your lung capacity, when not at heights.
- Some parts of the roads are prone to landslides, shooting stones, we were lucky that we were able to do the complete ring road trip, travelling on somepart of the the Hindustan Tibet Highway. So, be flexible, make more than one plan.
- Always, carry your medicines, some food supplies, some water ( the water in higher reaches is himalayan water, so its pure). I carried water in a camper and not in a plastic bottle. We all know how images of plastic bottles are doing rounds on the internet.
- If you are doing a road trip, do a research as to what all you should carry with you. A puncture repair kit, a towing cable, spare tyre, tools and tackles, extra fuel ( At times there can be fuel shortage and also there are points where you won’t find fuel station for quite some distance).
- Now, this is something I learned, a paper roll is always better to clean vehicle windshield than a cloth and also, paper is bio-degradable.
- Mobile Phone Network- Airtel, Jio, BSNL. We had only these, so will be commenting on these only. Airtel and Jio worked well all the way upto HP petrol Pump, Powari. Next, I had a BSNL prepaid sim card of other state and that was the one. It worked when no other network was working. Kept my family posted of my locations. Getting lost and going out is what many of us what, but then we should take care of those who care for us and let’s not keep them worried sick.
- Have offline google maps or any other you use ready with you.