Kinnaur Valley – Kalpa, Sangla Valley, Chitkul
Continuing on towards laying the foundation of comprehensive Travel Guide for Spiti Valley and as discussed in the last article Hindustan Tibet Highway, first let’s cover the lower Kinnaur Valley in depth before going further towards upper Kinnaur Valley and Spiti Valley. The lower part of Kinnaur Valley is also very much visited by many people during summer time due to ease of accessibility from Shimla/Delhi/Chandigarh and less crowd or offbeat location. By lower Kinnaur, I mean that I will be covering Kalpa, Sangla Valley and Chitkul in this travel guide and may be upper parts like Nako, Chango, Ropa, Hangrang can be covered in time to come, if required.
Kinnaur Valley is one of the 12 districts in Himachal Pradesh which is known for its apples & orchards, beautiful small hamlets, beautiful meadows surrounded with thick dense woods and not to forget the ever adventurous roads. One of the road to Sangla Valley was also got popularly featured by the name Ledge in Discovery Channel as Deadliest Roads in the World 🙂 … This adds just the right charm of adventure in the trip. In winters, the presence of snow makes it just a jaw-dropping experience to be in Kinnaur Valley where the major attractions is the breathtaking view of Kinner Kailash, a mountain sacred to Hindus, close to the Tibetan border. The beautiful meadows in Sangla or Baspa Valley and Chitkul which is considered the last village in India where one can reach from Kinnaur side, are also covered commonly on a trip to this part of Himalayas.
Kinnaur Valley is located in the Northeast corner of Himachal Pradesh about 235 KMs from state capital, Shimla.
Kinnaur Valley has a mountainous area, ranging in altitude from 2,320 Mtrs to 6,816 Mtrs (7,610 ft to 22,362 ft) where Kalpa is located at an altitude of 2,960 Mtrs (9,710 ft) and Sangla Valley is located at an altitude of 2,696 Mtrs (8,900 ft). Chitkul is the highest in the lot at an altitude of about 3,450 Mtrs (11,320 ft).
Season for Traveling to Kinnaur Valley
You can visit this beautiful valley throughout major part of the year but in winters things get very tough and heavy snowfall makes it inaccessible sometimes too. But, apart from peak winters Kinnaur Valley including Kalpa and Sangla Valley can be visited rest of the year without much fuss. It is important to note that monsoon is not the right time to be in Kinnaur Valley due to common landslides and worse roads, so in any case avoid monsoons My favorite time is Autumn or Fall when monsoon just resides away and you might still see some apple orchards loaded with apples with clear skies in the background. Also, Chitkul becomes inaccessible at the time of peak winters, so please avoid going there in late winters without knowing the weather conditions. One snowfall can trap you for months in Chitkul :)… In case you are going in Apple Season, that is around Late July or August in Kinnaur Valley then be ready for massive mess of trucks traffic too along with rains.
How to Reach Kinnaur Valley
Below is the most general route to Kinnaur Valley from Delhi that most people usually follow. You can reach Kinnaur on the second day with overnight halt at Narkanda or anywhere far from Shimla or Chail. The route to Kinnaur Valley from Delhi along with distance between the subsequent places is as follows:
Delhi – Shimla (360 KMs) – Narkanda (420 KMs) – Rampur (488 KMs) – Karcham (566 KMs) – Reckong Peo (587 KMs) – Kalpa (595 KMs)
Road from Karcham bifurcates towards Sangla Valley and Chitkul as: Karcham (566 KMs) – Sangla (582 KMs) – Rakcham (596 KMs) – Chitkul (610 KMs)
The higher ground clearance vehicles are preferable and 4×4 ones not required. However, quite a few people do it in hatchbacks and sedans as well which depends upon your skills to drive and road conditions at the time of travel.
Suggested Itinerary for Kinnaur Valley
Generally, I recommend 7 day itinerary for Kinnaur Valley so that one can enjoy the drive on the way as well as enjoy their stay in Kinnaur Valley comfortably, refer: Kinnaur Valley – Most Common Itinerary
Feel free to discuss your custom itineraries in DoW Himalayan Travel Community at the link: Itinerary Advice | Lahaul, Spiti & Kinnaur Valley
Accommodation Options at Kinnaur Valley
There are many accommodation options available at Kalpa as well as Sangla Valley which are good enough to cater to the varied needs of budgets among people. There are economic guest houses which are cheap enough to keep your money saved and there are other luxury properties as well which provide the comfort and facilities if you are looking forward to them.
Apart from private accommodation options, you can go ahead and vouch for many PWD Rest Houses in Kinnaur Valley which are though comfortable and economic but may not suit needs of every family may be. Also, you require bookings for them and sometimes in case of some VIP visit they may try to push you though not in rights. So, in general and in case you are OK with average comfort conditions, Quite Recommended!! You can refer: How to Book HP PWD Rest Houses or FRHs
For more details on good hotels to stay in Kinnaur Valley OR good accommodation options to stay in Kinnaur Valley, you can refer the article: Good Hotels or Accommodation options in Spiti Valley & Kinnaur Valley
Places to visit in Kinnaur Valley
You can plan a trip to Kinnaur Valley where you can try and explore the following places in or around Kalpa and Sangla Valley.
Attraction In-Around Sangla Valley
Sangla Valley: About 120 odd KMs before the Indo-Tibet border, lies one of the most beautiful and romantic valleys in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, Sangla Valley or otherwise also known as Baspa Valley which houses a major village by the name Sangla. Sangla is about 16 KMs diversion towards right from Karcham which is at Hindustan Tibet Highway going towards Kaza from Shimla Sangla Valley is surrounded by thick forest slopes and offers lovely views of the high mountains surrounding it. Recently, various beautiful meadows in this valley (such as Rakcham meadow) have become very popular among shooting various film scenes and advertisements too.
Chitkul Village: About 28 KMs away from Sangla Valley at an altitude of 3450 Mtrs and on the banks of Baspa river there lies the last inhabited place in India before Indo-Tibet border named Chitkul. The magical beauty which this village offers is unmatched and incomparable. Chitkul remains closed in winters and is extremely famous for its potatoes in the whole world which are extremely costly as well 🙂 … You can read more about Chitkul at the Wikipedia link here.
Kamru Fort: About 2-3 KMs away from Sangla Valley, there is a famous 1000 year old Kamru Fort considered to be one of the oldest forts in Himachal Pradesh. Do check out when you are in Sangla Valley.
Misc. Trails & Meadows around Sangla: There are loads of trails in these apple orchards which can be hiked around while your stay in Sangla Valley. There are some lovely meadows too (one near Rakcham village as I remember) as well which can be visited or spent time to bask in the lap of pristine mother nature.
You can also for for an easy 3-4 Hrs hike to the Glacier point if you are interested for some snow play.
Batseri village to Sangla Village walk of about 12 KMs through dense Cedar forests is also quite famous among people who love being midst nature and actually feel it. There is a Trout Fishery Farm on the other side of Baspa River near Sangla Village too which is nice to visit and can be covered in this walk itself. What better having a trout for yourself and later barbecue it over camp fire in the evening 🙂 !!
Attraction In-Around Kalpa
Kalpa: Kalpa is one of the best place to see sunset and sunrise in Himalayas over Kinner Kailash range. Kalpa is about 8 KMs from Reckong Peo, district headquarters of Kinnaur Valley which in turn is about 7 KMs diversion from a place called Powari on Hindustan Tibet Highway. The place is just majestic and the views of Kinner Kailash range from almost any of the hotel at Kalpa would just make your jaws drop at any day. I never thought that it would be that beautiful what I witnessed after reaching this lovely place. We were extremely lucky to witness such fantastic weather at such awesomely beautiful location in Kinnaur Valley. Read more about Kalpa here.
Roghi Village: It is about 6-7 KMs from Kalpa and is known for its traditional lifestyle of Himachal surrounded by apple orchards. Very nice place to have a short hike or walk across village from Kalpa. You will almost feel you are in time machine and somewhere in past, if you really spend some time here in this village. They villagers have a great knowledge of the place, its flora and fauna and you can get quite a decent knowledge in the village from them in case you are interested to know about Kinnaur Valley and this region
- Kothi Village: Just 3 km from Recong Peo, this village has a Chandika Devi temple which has an unusual architectural style and fine sculpture set amidst a picturesque mountains backdrop.
Medical Facilities in Kinnaur Valley
In case you need any kind of medical assistance, there is a one district hospital at Reckong Peo, being the headquarters of Kinnaur Valley. There is a local hospital at Sangla village too being the biggest village in Baspa Valley.
Food Joints near Kinnaur Valley
Most of the time you will be eating out in Hotels or Camps or Guest Houses or Home stays you will be staying. However, there are dhabhas or eating joints on the way to Kalpa or Sangla from Shimla which you can use for in between meals.
Phone Signals at Kinnaur Valley
Most of the connections work in Kalpa as well as Sangla Valley with best being Airtel. However, as you go ahead towards remote parts of Kinnaur like Nako, Puh, Chitkul etc. then best option will be to carry an MTNL/BSNL prepaid/postpaid connections which always has maximum coverage in Himachal Pradesh. Vodafone did have issues with some connectivity at times.
Petrol Pumps near Kinnaur Valley
About 10 KMs from Kalpa, you can find the nearest petrol pump at Reckong Peo. There is one more fuel pump at Powari which is on Hindustan – Tibet Highway when you move from Reckong Peo back towards Shimla which is about 30 KMs from Sangla Valley. I am not sure if it is still functional though on my recent trip to Spiti Valley in first week of May 2013, Powari fuel pump was not functional. There has been one fuel pump which is fairly new that I saw at Tapri.
Best thing is to top up your fuel tank at Narkanda which is fair in terms of quality as well OR the last petrol pump in Rampur that comes on the right side while going from Shimla side.
ATMs near Kinnaur Valley
There is an ATM as far as I know in Sangla Valley. Otherwise, you may find one for sure at Reckong Peo about 8 KMs away from Kalpa and 38 KMs away from Sangla
Kinnaur Valley is one of such secluded and untouched places in Himachal Pradesh which people must go over and enjoy raw nature. It is a perfect place for family vacation with lovely views all around and yes, a part of adventure too with rough roads. It is one of those places where journey is itself a destination.
Please feel free to post any queries or doubts you might have in planning your trip to Kinnaur Valley either in the comments section or more preferable Itinerary Advice | Lahaul, Spiti & Kinnaur Valley section of DoW – Himalayan Travel Community. If you have been to Kinnaur Valley, kindly share your thoughts and other information you might feel will be worth sharing with other fellow travelers and prove helpful to them as comments or in DoW – HTC community.