How to plan a trip to Spiti Valley in Winters

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Planning to do some crazy adventure trip in coming winters? I have an answer for you, “how about planning a trip to Spiti Valley in winters and enjoy the views of frozen cold desert of trans-Himalayas?”. Well, the answer in the form of a question is very much appropriate when you think about making some crazy adventure trip up in Himalayas. However, there are things you must be aware about while making a trip to Spiti Valley in winters. Spiti Valley is not a region where you can just land, having no clue about the place, especially when you are talking about an offseason trip to such a remote place in Himalayas. Your habit of unplanned trips to Himalayas could lead you to in a serious trouble if you are really interested to take on the challenge of making a trip to Spiti Valley in winters.

That Chill from Kaza – Spiti Valley in Winters
That Chill from Kaza – Spiti Valley in Winters

Hence, in today’s article, I will help you go through some basic tips covering Do’s and Don’ts , what and what not to expect in Spiti Valley in winters so that you are prepared for it. I will also suggest a recommended itinerary for a trip to Spiti Valley in winters in my next article, which will help you plan your night stays in much better way. It is important to strike the balance of basic amenities on offer, temperature you need to deal with and probability of getting stuck for few days to months in remote regions of Himalayas. Frankly speaking, trust me, being stuck in such a remote region with limited facilities in winters is not such a good feeling at all as you fantasize sitting on your couch in an AC room. So, you must give utmost attention to couple of articles I am dedicating for traveling to Spiti Valley in winters.

Making a trip to Spiti Valley in Winters? Few things to expect:

You may have been to Spiti Valley in summers or autumn sometime back and of course, like me, would have imagined how would it look when filled with white gold we call snow. How these wide, beautiful valleys of Spiti surrounded by towering brown mountains will draw you attention while offering only one color around, that is, White? How the life will be when everything around in Spiti Valley is frozen? Well, the answer only lies behind the adventure of taking a trip to Spiti Valley in winters. However, before you plan such a trip with full of adventure, please go through the top 15 things listed below that you should expect while on a trip to Spiti Valley in winters.

1. Expect road closures for couple of days to few weeks to few months

This is the most probable thing that will happen. During the extreme winters, the snowfall can close the road for couple of days to weeks to months. A month is rare as BRO keeps the road to Spiti Valley up to Kaza open all round the year but still monthly closure has happened at times, 2013 as an example. Hence, go prepared with nothing major to do back home even if you get stuck for a month and carry enough cash to survive the month. ATMs will be at mercy of electricity.

2. Expect driving on ice and snow on roads

If you are riding or driving yourself then be careful of the ice and snow on roads that makes the road conditions too much prone to skid. You should have experience of riding or driving in snow as one hard brake can lead you either flying down he gorge or crashing the car in the mountain. Any help with vehicle with be very scarce to find as most mechanic shops are closed.

3. Expect basic stay and very basic food to eat along with other facilities

Most of the hotels or guest houses will be shut down along with places to eat. Stays will be available in the form of home stays where basic food is provided. Do not expect other facilities like mechanics, groceries, fruits, filter water bottles, etc.. to be available readily as well. You should be planning well and be prepared with anything and everything you might need in the winter adventure to Spiti Valley.

Road to Rama – Lhalung Village
Road to Rama - Lhalung Village
4. Expect no water in toilets and usage restricted to on dry pits

The water in pipes freeze and hence, there will be no toilets with running water. In winters, the toilets remain locked and only dry pits (traditional toilets) are used where there is no water available. Hence, keep your expectations straight. Along with toilets, the washrooms will also not have any water. You can boil water and use it quickly to wash your face and hand couple of times a day. So, those of you who bath everyday and cannot live without it, winters will not be time to travel to Spiti Valley 😉 …

5. Expect bone freezing temperatures as you go past lower Kinnaur Valley

Needless to say, as soon as you cross Kinnaur Valley and enter higher regions of Kinnaur such as Nako, you will experience bone freezing temperature. Hence, be prepared with winter gear and carry enough woollens to protect yourself include warm shoes as you will not feel your toes for most of the day. The feeling of freezing increase as you cross Schichiling village (base of Dhangkar) ahead of Tabo in Spiti Valley.

6. Expect bad and worse roads with shooting stones

The presence of snow and ice at times when sun shines makes the road slushy. So, apart from snow and ice, expect to drive in slush as well. When the snow melts, especially towards the end of winters, March – April, the shooting stones are common as they come along with the dripping water. These are more common when there is light snowfall as that snow melts quickly.

7. Expect freezing your car’s fuel in tank and other fluids

All fluids including diesel in your car will mostly be frozen. The car will require start every few hours and protect the engine with some cloth to keep it warm. You might need to wake up at night as well and keep ignition on for 15-20 minutes to keep it warm. At times, parking the car in upright position also helps but not always. Sometimes even the oil in hose pipes also freeze.

8. Expect only handful tourists around or no tourists & handful public transport

There wont be many tourists around and hence, options of sharing vehicles or dependent on public transport will be limited. The buses do run between Reckong Peo and Kaza daily but they will park the bus in case it is not safe to travel ahead on the both ends of that point. People walk the danger point on foot and exchange buses coming from either direction. This is very common in winters.

Road leading to Lhalung from Rama
Road leading to Lhalung from Rama
9. Expect no power (electrical) for couple of days to few weeks to few months

Well, when it snows heavily, the electric poles are swayed away or gets buried in the load of snow. So, carry enough spare batteries and keep them warm somewhere as batteries will also freeze to exhaust. Hence, keeping them warm is the key to run them long. This includes your phones as well. Keep phones inside your blankets/quilts while sleeping.

Carry enough cash as ATMs might not work as well. SBI bank in Kaza does provide you money even from the POS machine they have installed in the bank in case ATM is not working. However, cash is limited to Rs 1000 in a day.

10. Expect no mobile signals for couple of days to few weeks to few months

Similar to electricity, you should not expect mobile signals for few days to weeks to months. Hence, you should inform your safety back at home, friends and relatives as soon as you see a possibility. Wifi in the bank, wifi in some hotel running a generator, use any possibility you can see available. Messages and Whatsapp work much better than calling homes. Carry only BSNL/MTNL connection.

11. Expect bare minimum medical help and support in case required

Similar to other things in winters, do not expect much from the medical facilities as well. At times people have to use helicopter to be dropped off to safe spot in case of a medical emergency. However, if the helicopter will be able to fly or not, you will still be at mercy of weather gods. Carry basic and any on going medicines in enough stock to last long for a month or so in case required. Do not rely on anything to be procured locally. It is not recommended to travel at all in winters in case you have some ongoing ailment or illness.

12. Expect most villages under hibernation & some tourist destinations being closed

Roads to most of the tourist villages in Spiti Valley including Dhangkar, Lhalung, Demul, Langza, Lhalung, etc.. will be closed and can only be reached by foot, if at all. The roads to Ki – Kibber, most of the times remain open though. Don’t make a lone trek to these villages and always travel with some local guide or villager.


Those Frozen Moments from Spiti River
13. Expect missing Chandratal along with doing the full circuit from Shimla to Spiti to Manali

The road ahead of Kaza will remain closed for the entire winters. Hence, you cannot do the entire circuit from November to mid of June including Chandratal lake. The road clearance from Kaza towards Chandratal – Kunzum Pass starts in March and ends by first or second week of June connecting Kaza to Manali.

14. Expect locals being as warm & as welcoming as they are in summers

Needless to say, locals will greet you with same warmth and hospitality as if you are visiting them in summers. They will do almost all things to help and feel you comfortable in their homes. You will really enjoy the real local life when you visit in the winter months in Spiti Valley. It helps you witness each day of harsh life in winters for the local. Your problems back in air condition rooms and cars will seem nothing and I am sure you will return as a changed soul 😉 😉 …

15. Expect to loose your soul in frozen beauty of Spiti Valley in winters

As in summers, the frozen beauty of Spiti Valley is no less magnanimous and your soul will fall prey to it with the very first sight of it 🙂 🙂 … I am sure that a part of your soul will be lost forever in Spiti Valley as you live the winter experience in this remote part of Himalayas.


Breathtaking Snow filled views from Key Monastery

Conclusion

As described in this first article of the series on traveling to Spiti Valley in Winters, I have tried to highlight what things you can expect while making such an adventure trip. I hope you will take these things as inputs to arrive to the answer of the questions like “Should I make a trip to Spiti Valley in winters?” or “What to expect on a trip to Spiti Valley in winters?”. This article will help you come to a fair and a wise decision. Once, you have arrived to the decision, I am sure coming article in the series will help you planning the right itinerary for a trip to Spiti Valley in winters. Feel free to share this article with any friends or family whom you know are making a such a trip to Spiti Valley in winters. Also, please share your thoughts or inputs in case you feel that will add value and help other fellow travellers making trip to Spiti Valley in winters.

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47 Comments

  1. Hi Dheeraj,
    We are planning to go to spiti valley in May first week. Plan is to go till kun zum la and trek to chandrataal. Would trekking be feasible? If not, any other treks you would suggest in the Spiti

    • No Charu, the road to Chandratal does not open and trekking is not feasible in the month of May to Chandratal. It is as if going into the dead land, so even if some insane agency/individual offer you something like this, please turn down the offer.

  2. Can I do the full circuit of Spiti from Shimla to Shimla in End of July. Is it right time to do ? How many days should I have Shimla to Shimla ?

  3. Yogender Kumar Jain on

    Dheeraj Sir my question would be if we want to enjoy spiti valley with medium snow will april last week or may first week will good time to be there … pls let me know

    • Yes Yogender, April last week will let you enjoy snow in Spiti Valley. You can especially travel beyond Kaza till the point where road is open and enjoy in tons of snow towards Kunzum Pass.

  4. MANISH PATEL on

    hi DHIRAJ,
    I GOT SOME BASIC IDEA FROM YOUR DESCRIPTION ABOUT TRIP TO KINNAUR, SANGLA VALLEY AND SPITI VALLEY.I AM PLANNING TO TRAVEL IN MARCH END TO SHIMLA, 26TH TO 29TH EXACTLY , AFTER WORD WHICH PLACES I CAN VISIT FROM THERE? I HAVE SARAHAN, SANGLA CHITKUL IN MIND, WILL BE SELF DRIVING CRV4WD AND HAD BEEN UPTO THANEDHAR IN APRIL END BEFORE 3 YR. WE ARE FAMILY OF 3. CAN U SUGGEST ITINERARY AND PLACES TO STAY AND ANY PARTICULAR PRECAUTIONS?
    THANKS
    MANISH

    • Hi Manish,

      Request you to please avoid CAPS letters. I see you have just 4 days in hand and going to any of these places will basically mean lot of hectic driving in just 4 days. Are you starting from Delhi to Chandigarh?

      • Manish patel on

        Hi Dhiraj, thanks for prompt reply. I am in Shimla from 26 th to 29 th and then after I am free for 6 days as I am not sure of what to expect weather wise. Bhave plan to go upto chitkul , if u recommend for this time period. Actually I am coming from Gujarat.will start on 25 th march

  5. Hi Dheeraj,
    I wil, be going to Spiti in end March. My itinerary is Kalka-Kufri-Reckong Peo-Kaza-Tabo-Chitkul-Narkanda-Kufri-Kalka. The period is from 17/03/ to 27/03. i think it must be filled with snow. Can you guide me with some taxi drivers? Also will it be more sunny during this dyas as it is winter end? Thanks in advance for your inputs

    • Hi Atit,

      You can get connected directly to some drivers in Spiti Valley or Kinnaur Valley at the link: List of Taxi Drivers for Spiti Valley & Kinnaur Valley. These drivers can come and pick you up from Manali / Shimla / Delhi / Chandigarh too, of course with a price of pickup as well.

      The rates of the taxis are about Rs 3000-3500 per day depending upon the number of days you plan to travel, more the days, less the price.

      Otherwise, taxis in general are also available on the spot from Shimla or Manali from respective taxi stands

      Weather depends upon during those days weather only. Sometimes sunny sometimes dark, we had sun only 1.5 day of our travel.

  6. Hey Dheeraj,
    I have plans of visiting the Spiti Valley in mid-end Jan.
    Is Dhankar & Pin accessible in this part of year ?
    Also do let me know for homestays with contacts(if possible) at Tabo, Dhankar, Pin(if possible), Kibber.

  7. Thanks Dhreeraj, So when is the best time to visit and see snow too ? how about end of May or 1st week of June ? will i get to see some snow ?

    • Sean, in case you are not interested to do whole circuit and are OK to go from Kinnaur and come back from Kinnaur only, then go in April end of May to get snow filled views.

      • I am planing to take a full circuit with 15 days in hand – starting from Shimla – Narkand – Kalpa – Nako – Tabo – kaza -Kibber – Manali and back to Shimla.

        • In that case, June will be apt time to do the entire circuit because the road from Kaza to Manali opens around second week of June.

  8. Hi Dheeraj,

    I have gone through the article and comments, I am planning a trip in first week of Jan 2017 and have few question.

    Is it possible to cover the stretch till Chandra taal Lake and back to Shimla in 4 Days.
    If not how far i can travel ?
    Is it safe to drive a SUV, Based on road condition & Snow, I will be traveling with family , friends & a KID too.
    Will there be too much snow on the roads.

    • The road beyond Kaza gets closed in winters, so Chandratal is not possible. You can travel up to Kaza at max. I will not recommend to make a trip with family and kids into Spiti Valley at that time of the year. It will be too dangerous to go up there with kids.

    • Hi Pawan,

      1. You have read the article above and that’s best pointers that you should keep in mind. Then, apart from that you sould definitely be prepared with stocks of food, dry fruits and heavy woollens and a heavy jacket. Do not forget woollens socks and if possible warm shoes.
      2. It may not be completely white by that time as snowfall has just started but you may get glimpses of it. This much snow is better if you visit in Jan end to March.

  9. anshul akhoury on

    Hi Dheeraj,

    How will be the weather in March? Any idea on availability of Public transport?

    • Anshul, it is all frozen in March. Check the travel tales section to read about my trip in March to Spiti Valley. The buses runs for sure between Reckong Peo and Kaza. Public transport is limited to road opening or closing.

  10. Hi Dheeraj, I just came back from Kinnaur-Spiti trip this Oct-end. I am planning to visit Himachal again at the beginning of March. I would love to be in snow and beautiful places, considering that I already had the taste of the most beautiful places of Himachal just few days back. Can you please let me know which places should I cover in March, where there will be less chances of road block due to snow but can match upto Spiti standards. We are not self-driving. We will hire a car. Thanks for your help in advance.

    • Hi Ria, that is a bit difficult question comparing anything else in Himachal than Kinnaur – Spiti in March 😀 😀

      I will be frank, it will be difficult to get such a place in March as both Pangi and Lahaul valley will be closed during that time and remain cut off. Those are the only places come close to the beauty of Spiti and Kinnaur Valley in Himachal. So, it will be better if you choose something like Tungnath – Chandrashilla – Deoria Tal – Rohini Bhugyal hikes in Uttarakhand to enjoy great views of Chaukhamba range and hike in wilderness of nature.

  11. Hi Dheeraj, I am planning to go to Himachal in December for 6-7 days. To be precise from 5th December to 13th December. I read your replies to other comments and realised that going to Spiti is not feasible. However, is is possible to explore other parts of Himachal on the said dates? Kindly suggest. Thank you in advance.

    • Yes Pushkar, the article describes how you can plan a trip to Spiti Valley and what shall be expected up there during that time period. You can surely try to visit Kinnaur Valley including Sarahan, Kalpa and Sangla during that time of the year. Chitkul will be closed in December.

  12. Hi Dheeraj,

    As always, thank you for this article and many others I’ve reliably used for my Himalayan trips. This November 16th, I’m planning to take a trip with my wife in an SUV. This is our first road trip so I thought of going till Kalpa/Sangla and returning to Shimla. Can i expect snow fall on the road to Kalpa region in mid November?

    • Mohid, in November unless it snows on the day you are traveling it will be hard to find snow on road to Kalpa. Surrounding peaks will surely be having snow on them though. Go prepared with heavy woolens.

  13. Hi Dheeraj, thank you for this wonderful info, Is it possible to do Spiti in Oct’16? Plan is to do: Mandi – manali – Keylong -spiti – Kinnaur
    we will be on bikes, thanks

  14. Pingback: Spiti in Winters - Most Common Itinerary - Devil On Wheels™

  15. Hi Dheeraj
    Your article is awesome!!! That is u making me to go to this trip.. i hav been to keylong, manali, kashmir, kargil, srinagar before but this time i m planning to go leh via spiti ( Hindustan-Tibet HIghway) just bcz u hav desribed its beauty very well with pictures, so is it possible if i leave from palanpur(gujarat) on 29th Oct as my vacation starts from this date? or if Leh is not possible(due to winter & POK issue) than what r the other choice? bcz i know it will be winter time as i reach himachal on 1st of Nov.. we r frnds(5 Person) planing this trip with Duster RXZ 110ps Diesle. guide me if i m doing any wrong….

    • No Amin, it is not possible to make a trip to Leh from Spiti Valley or Manali – Leh Highway that late in the season. You can get stuck in the middle of no where for months and no help at all.

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