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Plan your trip to Spiti Valley - Surreal Spiti

Our trip to Spiti Valley in state of Himachal Pradesh, India has left us with picture-postcard memories of pristine lakes, dry desert, barren mountains, stunning landscapes and precariously perched monasteries. Not only did we visit the highest post-office in the world, the highest motorable village in the world and highest suspension bridge in the world, we also got to see some of the oldest monasteries of the valley that survived floods and earthquakes. Spiti Valley is probably the most peaceful places in India like Rudyard Kipling once described it – ‘A world within a world’. In our last blog ‘Introduction to Spiti Valley’, we wrote about the valley’s location, its history, its culture and the best time to visit to Spiti. In this blog, we will brief you on how to reach Spiti Valley, places to visit in Spiti Valley, ideal itinerary and some important tips and recommendations that will help you plan your trip to Spiti Valley. Happy reading!

Stunning landscapes of Spiti Valley_Plan your trip to Spiti Valley
Stunning landscapes of Spiti Valley_Plan your trip to Spiti Valley
 

Read our previous blogs on Spiti Valley by clicking on the links or images below:

2. Plan your trip to Spiti Valley (This blog)

 

How to reach Spiti Valley:

Kaza is a major town and administrative headquarter of Spiti Valley. When one talks about visiting Spiti Valley, they are usually talking about visiting Kaza or some nearby village. You can reach Spiti via road only. There are no airports or railway stations in Spiti due to high altitude and rough terrain. There are two different routes to reach Spiti Valley i.e Kaza – one from Manali and the other from Shimla-Kinnaur. Both the routes are scenic, beautiful and full of adventure. You could decide which route you want to opt for depending on the time of travel and the number of days you have in hand. You can get state transport bus to reach Spiti from Shimla or Manali but we would suggest taking a private taxi so that you can visit many other scenic places on the way.

You can reach Spiti Valley only via road_Plan your trip to Spiti Valley
You can reach Spiti Valley only via road_Plan your trip to Spiti Valley

Reaching Spiti Valley via Manali route

From Manali, Spiti Valley can be reached by taking the Rohtang Pass – Gramphu – Kunzum Pass – Kaza route. The total distance is just 200 kilometres but it takes around 10-12 hours of travel due to bad road conditions.

Remember: Manali route stays open only from mid May - October. The route to Spiti Valley is cut-off from Manali side for rest of the months as the high-altitude passes (Rohtang pass and Kunzum pass) are covered with heavy snow.

Pros of taking Manali route to reach Spiti Valley:

  • It will take you just 2 days to reach Spiti Valley i.e. Kaza – One day to reach Manali from your base and another day to reach Kaza from Manali. Hence, this route is shorter.

Cons of taking Manali route to reach Spiti Valley:

  • You have to start very early from Manali to reach Spiti Valley as the snow from the high passes (Rohtang and Kunzum pass) starts melting post 10 AM and leads to slushy and slippery roads. You should cross the passes before it is too hot and before the snow melts.

  • ​The road from Gramphu to Kunzum Pass is in extremely bad condition. There are some areas where no road exists at all and you will have to get down from the vehicle and walk through the water-crossings on foot. This makes the journey tiring. Once you pass Kunzum Pass, the road conditions become better.

  • ​You gain an altitude of 6000 feet in a day on this route, which is massive. If you are not healthy and fit or if this is the first time you are going to such high altitude, there’s a big chance that you may suffer from Acute mountain sickness (AMS).

  • ​You need an entry permit from the Manali administration to cross Rohtang Pass from Manali side that has to be obtained from Manali town, either online or in-person a day or two before your trip, which is a troublesome task if you are travelling on your own.


Reaching Spiti Valley via Shimla-Kinnaur route

From Shimla, Spiti Valley can be reached by taking the Sarahan – Sangla – Nako – Tabo - Kaza route. The total distance is 450 kilometres and it takes around 3 days of travel to reach Spiti Valley.

Remember: This route is open throughout the year (except during heavy snow/rains and landslides)

Pros of taking Shimla-Kinnaur route to reach Spiti Valley:

  • ​The roads to Spiti Valley from Shimla side are much better in condition than those from Manali side. You will feel less tired of travelling on this route.

  • ​No permits, whatsoever are needed while travelling on this route (For Indians only).

  • ​The day-wise altitude gain is gradual; hence the body gets time to acclimatize better. Hence, there are fewer chances that you suffer from Acute mountain sickness (AMS).

Cons of taking Shimla-Kinnaur route to reach Spiti Valley:

  • It will take you minimum 3 days to reach Spiti Valley – One day to reach Shimla (or nearby areas) from your base, second day to reach Sangla from Shimla and the third day to reach Kaza from Sangla. Hence, this route is rather long.

Roads to Spiti Valley_Plan your trip to Spiti Valley
Roads to Spiti Valley_Plan your trip to Spiti Valley

Nearest railway station to Spiti Valley – Shimla railway station is the closest from Spiti Valley. However, the rail-line to Shimla railway station is a narrow-gauge line from Kalka which is located 30 kilometres away from Chandigarh. Chandigarh railway station is the second closest from Spiti Valley. From Chandigarh, you can either reach Shimla or Manali and then make an onward journey to Spiti Valley.


Nearest airport to Spiti Valley – Bhuntar airport (also called Kullu - Manali airport) in Kullu district is the nearest from Spiti Valley. From the airport, you can reach Manali (50 kilometres away) via road and then make an onward journey to Spiti Valley. The second closest airport to Spiti Valley is Jubbarhatti airport, which is 24 kilometres away from the town of Shimla. Both Bhuntar and Jubbarhatti airport are connected with regular flights from Delhi and Chandigarh. However, the frequency of flights from these airports are less and the airfare is high. Chandigarh airport is the third closest airport from Spiti Valley and is well connected by flights from major airports across India.


How did we reach Spiti Valley?

We chose Chandigarh airport as our starting base to travel to Spiti Valley. We wanted to experience the perks of both the Shimla-Kinnaur route and the Manali route, hence we planned to enter Spiti Valley via Shimla-Kinnaur and exit via Manali completing a round circuit. From Chandigarh airport, we travelled via road on Narkanda – Sangla – Nako – Tabo – Kaza route. We also visited Kalpa and Chitkul in Kinnaur valley on the way. While returning, we took the Kaza – Chandratal – Kunzum Pass – Rohtang Pass – Gramphu – Manali route. This way we avoided the acute mountain sickness (AMS) to kick-in by gradual altitude gain and got an opportunity to visit some beautiful places in Kinnaur valley/ district as well.

Note: Sangla, Chitkul, Kalpa, Reckong Peo and Nako lie in the Kinnaur valley/ district. In our upcoming blogs, we will highlight places to visit in Kinnaur valley as well as Spiti valley.

Round circuit route to Spiti Valley entering from Shimla and exiting via Manali_Plan your trip to Spiti Valley
Round circuit route to Spiti Valley entering from Shimla and exiting via Manali_Plan your trip to Spiti Valley

Places to visit in Kinnaur Valley:

Kinnaur is a separate district in Himachal pradesh that lies on the way while travelling to Spiti Valley from Shimla. As we travelled, we saw a stark difference between the Spiti and Kinnaur valleys. Kinnaur valley is full of forest-covered mountains and lots of greenery while Spiti Valley is the opposite. The Kinnaur belt is less frequented by tourists, and that’s what makes it so raw and serene. Read in detail about all the places to visit in Kinnaur valley in our separate blog - Travel guide to Kinnaur Valley.


Sangla (Altitude: 8600 feet)

Sangla is a tiny valley surrounded by evergreen forest slopes and green mountain peaks. It is located right on the banks of Baspa River and thus has very fertile soil. If you visit Sangla from June to August, you will find the entire valley laden with red cherry trees and apple orchards. The picturesque snow-cladded mountain peaks in the distance add to its charm. Kamru fort and Bering Nag temple are the top tourist attractions in Sangla valley.

Bering Nag temple courtyard in Sangla Valley, Kinnaur_Plan your trip to Spiti Valley
Bering Nag temple courtyard in Sangla Valley, Kinnaur_Plan your trip to Spiti Valley

Chitkul (Altitude: 11320 feet)

Chitkul village is located 28 kilometres away from the Sangla valley. It is the last inhabited village in India before the India-Tibet border. Again, located on the banks of Baspa River, Chitkul village overlooks the snow-clad peaks of Nee-La Himalayan range. Typical Himachali architecture in the houses of the village, Mathi temple and Chitkul fort are the major tourist places to visit in Chitkul.