Spiti Valley – the very sound of this enchanting place has forever made my heart skip a beat. I would always be transported into a dream that was stitched with images I had seen and the magical stories I had heard. I ardently waited for Spiti to summon me for over four years until finally last August I got the chance to behold it with my own eyes. My experience was magical beyond anything I had ever imagined or expected. If you’re looking for an escape from the scorching heat and your stressful life, I cannot recommend this Himalayan valley enough. Here’s a guide that will help you see the best of Spiti Valley.
Know before you go:
Contrary to popular belief, Spiti Valley is not one place, but a valley that is home to the most stunning towns and villages. There are two ways to reach Spiti; via Shimla or Manali. The route from Shimla is longer and takes you through the imposing landscape of Kinnaur. The route from Manali, however, takes you directly to the district capital, Kaza. This journey is treacherous and often not recommended due to the sudden change in altitude. After all, Kaza is situated at 12,500ft.!
In order to explore the full beauty of Spiti and yet wrap up the trip in about a week, you must travel the entire circuit, i.e. Shimla – Spiti Valley – Manali. Please note that Manali-Kaza route remains open only between June-September.
Here’s the itinerary you can follow:
Shimla – Chitkul
Time Taken: 9-11 hours
This is approximately a 10-hour journey that will take you through a route you would have never seen before. Kinnaur region is known for its precarious roads that are so narrow that they will take your breath away for more reason than one. Even though you would be sitting at the edge of your seat, anxious about the turns and the edges, you will find yourself smiling silly at the magnificent landscape. Raw, rugged and mighty – this is how I would describe the mountains that lead up to Chitkul. Once in Chitkul, the last village on Indo-China border, don’t blame me if you feel like shifting there forever! This tiny village is right out of a postcard. Enveloped in blooming mountains and a river that roars through the village, it is at Chitkul that you will realise how far away you’ve come.
If you want to perfect the art of doing nothing, Chitkul is the ideal place for you. Sit by the river’s edge or choose a mountain of your liking and spend your day conquering it. Don’t forget to pay attention to the numerous temples that the town is lined with.
Where to stay: Zostel.
Next, you head to Kalpa.
Chitkul – Kalpa
Time Taken: 2.5 hours
Surrounded by the Kinner- Kailash range, it is at Kalpa that I first saw snow-capped peaks. This town is reminiscent of an ancient world with its temples, monastery and a slow-paced life. Head to the highly-instagrammed Suicide Point in Roghi, which is more hypnotising than scary. Highlights within the town include Narayan-Nagini Temple and Ha-Bu-Na-Lan-Kar Monastery.
Stay in Kalpa for the night and then head to Nako.
Where to stay: Hotel Kinner Kailash
Kalpa – Nako
Time Taken: 3 hours
From Kalpa, you leave for Nako, and I promise you that this drive will compel you to hang out the window and feel the wind slap your face at every turn. No matter how tangled your hair get or how tanned you get, don’t miss out on this opportunity! Nako is at the border of Kinnaur and Spiti Valley, so you’ll start noticing a slight difference in the landscape. This beauty is typical to Spiti Valley. The night skies of Nako are particularly stunning, so do head to the helipad and enjoy a sky full of stars, galaxies and planets. Yes, you will see it all. Do visit the Nako Lake and Nako Monastery, do take a walk in the labyrinthine village as well!
Where to stay: Lake View Hotel.
Nako – Tabo
Time Taken: 1.5 hours
Tabo, the first village of Spiti Valley is home to an austere monastery, Tabo Monastery that dates back to the 11th century. Head inside the temple and explore the ancient murals and statues of Buddhist gods and goddesses. You will also notice peculiar formations surrounding the town. These are Tabo Caves that served as sites for powerful meditation by monks. Do try Cafe Kunzum Top that has excellent Spitian and Tibetan dishes! When I visited, I had all my meals here — the variety is huge, and the food is absolutely lip-smacking.
Where to stay: Tano Monastery guest house.
Tabo – Kaza
Distance from Kaza: 48km
Time Taken: 1 hour
Today you move towards Kaza, Spiti’s district capital. As soon as you enter the town, you will notice the stark difference between Kaza and the villages you stayed in before. Kaza is quite commercialised, you will spot tourists from around the world here, lots of volunteering opportunities, a number of hotels and cafes at every corner. The effervesce of Kaza serves as a refreshing welcome after spending so many days in so much seclusion. Shop from Taste of Spiti, watch films at Sol Cafe and Karaoke at The Himalayan Cafe.
Where to stay: Hotel Deyzor.
This iconic monastery has become synonymous with Spiti ever since the valley came under the radar of tourists. Shaped like a bee-hive, Kee Monastery stands tall, facing the Spiti River. Kee is the biggest monastery in Spiti region and also serves as a religious training centre for Lamas.
Distance from Kaza: 18km
This is one of the most-visited villages in Spiti during winter. Famous for Kibber Wildlife Park, the village is frequented by tourists to spot blue sheep, red fox and snow leopards. Kibber also forms the base for treks such as Kanamo Peak that lies at 21,000 ft. Stay here the night and explore this quaint Spitian Village. Don’t miss out o drive to Chicham Bridge, the highest suspension bridge in Asia.
Where to stay: Norling Homestay.
Hikkim, Komic, Langza:
You can take a day trip towards Hikkim, the world’s highest post office, Komic, the highest village of Spiti Valley and Langza, which is famous for a giant Buddha Statue. These villages have a population of less than fifty, and so, nature’s charm is well-preserved. The beauty here is endless, boundless. Do keep an eye out for Chau Chau Kang Nilda from Langza. If you’re looking for an offbeat experience, you can stay at a homestay in Langza. Alternatively, you can head to Kibber or Kaza to stay the night.
Kaza/Kibber – Chandratal – Manali
Distance from Kaza: 51km + 140km
Time Taken: 9-10 hours (if you’re lucky)
The drive from Kaza to Chandrataal is another overwhelmingly gorgeous route that will leave your mouth agape with admiration. The route will take you through wide valleys showing you an enchanting landscape — you’ll be surprised that a place could be this beautiful!
At Chandratal, a short walk of about 10 minutes will get you to the sapphire blue lake. Legend says that this moon-shaped lake is frequented by fairies who will steal your belongings! So beware lest you get charmed and tricked like never before. Snow capped mountains surrounding Chadrataal make it a sight you’ll never forget. This is one of the most stunning high-altitude lakes, so take your time, soak in the beauty. Fair warning to all adventurers out there:
circumscribing the lake is a task that is much more difficult than it looks. It will take you at least three hours to take a round of the lake!
Head to Manali now. In case you’re not visiting between June-September, you won’t be able to visit Chandrataal. You will need to head back to Shimla from Kaza/Kibber.
My trip to Spiti completely changed the way I travel. Disconnected from the world, I lived every single moment to the fullest. Surrounded by boundless beauty, I got the chance to spend time with myself, my thoughts and unwind from my stressful city life.
If you’re looking for a magic touch in your life, Spiti’s your answer.