In this article of the series, “Comprehensive Travel Guide to Spiti Valley”, I will try to share my inputs on best time or season to travel the road to Spiti Valley. There are two routes that goes to Spiti Valley, one via Manali as Manali – Rohtang Pass – Gramphu – Chattru – Kunzum Pass – Kaza (Spiti Valley) AND then other one goes through via Shimla – Kinnaur Valley as Shimla – Kinnaur – Nako – Sumdo (Spiti Valley) – Tabo – Kaza, commonly known as Hindustan – Tibet Highway. The Hindustan – Tibet highway remains open all through out the year via Kinnaur Valley and you can make a journey to Kaza over it all round the year because there is no high mountain pass that comes on this route. It is said to be motorable all round the year, however, traveling to Spiti Valley especially in winter months is not that easy as it reads and conditions in winters on Hindustan – Tibet highway is quite challenging and tough.
Going via Manali side by and large depends first upon opening of Rohtang Pass and then opening of route from Gramphu to Kunzum Pass and Kunzum Pass in itself. This generally takes time and remains closed for almost 7 months in an year. Rohtang Pass generally opens post Mid – May and further route to Kaza over Kunzum Pass almost opens by second week of June only. So, you have very little time in an year, in case you are interested in the entire circuit viz. Delhi – Shimla – Kinnaur – Kaza (Spiti Valley) – Kunzum Pass – Rohtang Pass – Manali – Delhi
Best Time to Travel on Road to Spiti Valley
In the following part of the article, let’s check in detail, how the whole year looks like in terms of traveling on the road to Spiti Valley and then you can evaluate which month shall be best for you to travel there.
Come April to Mid-May, snow starts to melt and some link roads starts to open up including the road to Losar from Kaza. Opening of Kunzum Pass and further road towards Manali from Kunzum Pass, takes more time and generally gets open in the month of June only. However, conditions in Spiti Valley become bearable and journey to spiti Valley is not that hard this period and in fact season starts to open in these two months only when adventurists from various parts of the country start planning their trip to Spiti Valley. Hotels just start to come out of hibernation and things starts to arrive in Spiti Valley on frequent basis. If you are interested in watching snow studded peaks, want to play in snow then this is the ideal time to be in Spiti Valley.
If you are one of those who want to feel the deserted roads, low tourist count, OK with basic facilities and OK to take a chance on giving up a place or two as that link road might not have opened then it is OK for you to travel in this window. But, keep in mind that you will not be able to do the complete circuit.
Mid – May to Mid – July, is the actual main season in Spiti Valley when loads of tourist make their journey over here and season eventually takes rapid move as the road to Manali over Kunzum Pass also open by second week of June. Mostly all the link roads to various sightseeing places or remote villages in Spiti Valley are open in this period and you can plan your visit. Hotels are all open with full facilities, there is quite a lot of hustle bustle of tourists all around in Spiti Valley. Even Chandratal lake becomes accessible in the month of June soon after the Kunzum Pass opens. Well, it is one of the good time to be in Spiti Valley and a desperate retreat from the HEAT of northern cities of India. There are many water crossings active during this period as the snow melts, so it is always better to reach the destination well in afternoon to avoid getting stuck either in one of those water crossings or behind it. So, follow “Leave Early, Sleep Early” principle very strictly. In the recent past, June appears to have good pre-monsoon showers on the way to Spiti Valley especially in Kinnaur and even Spiti experience one or two spells of snow in June as well :shock:, not to forget the recent (June 2013) tragic flash floods in Kinnaur district. So, weather is somehow becoming un predictable now a days. However, this is considered one of the better times to travel over road to Spiti Valley that is Hindustan – Tibet Highway.
Mid – July to August, is the time when monsoon is in full flurry in Kinnaur and DO understand that Kinnaur is not a place to be at especially in rains with its history of massive landslides and the live landslide zone of Malling Nalla ahead of Nako. in this period, roads are almost in horrible state as compared to rest of the year especially in Kinnaur Valley. Having said all that, it does not mean that it is not a season for Spiti Valley. Spiti Valley falls under Trans Himalayan region which is generally rain shadowed but in recent past rains have started to reach even Spiti though not that much just frequent drizzles and overcast skies. So, generally this time shall be avoided, if possible and only chance shall be taken when you have enough number of buffer days in hand to face intermittent delays or even cancellation of the trip. Once, you reach Spiti Valley, things remain mostly OK but do not forget that you have to return via either Manali or Kinnaur again which DO experience good monsoon rains, especially Rohtang Pass will be in big mess. Also, keep in mind that it is also a time of Apple Season and crop transportation which creates good amount of traffic jams owing to high number of trucks that ply on Kinnaur Valley route. If you happen to be there, then do take one or two cartons of golden apples or red apples from Kinnaur 🙂
September to mid-October, is the time which is my favourite when autumn colours of Spiti are blooming with oranges leaves on the trees enhancing the beauty of magnificent backdrops by many levels. The aqua colours of water in the river just adds jewels to the pristine beauty all around Spiti Valley. The conditions at night and morning is quite cold, at some parts, almost close to 2-3 degree Celsius, so do carry heavy woolens at this time of the year with you. You can also get your hands on super delicious Spiti Apples around Tabo or Hurling and even in Kaza at house of locals. DO NOT miss to taste them or buy them if possible, I am sure you would not have tasted such an apple before 😉 … If you are a snow lover then you will not like this month as almost all the peaks around you would be naked without any snow on them.
Regarding making the complete circuit, especially after mid of October, yes you can come from Kinnaur side and go via Manali side BUT do check the weather updates for few days before making the trip across Kunzum Pass when you are at Kaza or Losar. Kunzum Pass starts getting snowfall by September end and it can be very tricky and risky crossing over it in no mans land. Hence, you need to be very very sure of weather especially in October, when making a move from Kaza to Manali beyond Kunzum Pass. My frank and modest advice is always to avoid it.
November to March, is generally winter months in Spiti Valley and while traveling you go through lots of hardships of ice on the roads, lack of electricity, extreme winter conditions with sub zero temperatures topped with basic facilities as most of the guest houses gets closed. Kunzum Pass gets closed by November for next 6-7 months, so one cannot complete the circuit from Shimla – Kinnaur to Manali during this period. It is to be noted that in this winter period, the water in the taps freeze and people depend upon hand pump water at certain places or boiled water in buckets. Kaza, especially suffer from shortage of water in these months and wash rooms are big nightmares without tap water. So, in all this period, the life is not that ease. In this period, the link roads to various places like Geyu Mummy, Pin Valley, Kibber, Gette, Komik, Langza, Losar ahead of Kaza etc. in Spiti Valley remain closed as well. Hence, you can only make a trip upto Kaza on this route and there is always a chance of closure of roads for few days if it continues to snow for a period of time during winters. So, if you are making a road trip in winters, be ready for extreme adventure and delays too!! Go Very well prepared in this time of the year with respect to mental levels, physical levels and food to carry along with buffer days.
Still confused?? Well, in the end, I can say if you love lovely vivid colors of nature or photographer, love less tourists around you at the cost of snow around then make a journey in the month of September. Otherwise, if you are one of those snow lovers then make the journey in the period of Mid-May to June.
Feel free to ask any queries or share your valuable inputs on your take on Season to Travel on Road to Spiti Valley either in the comments section below or help other travelers with your views in DoW – Himalayan Travel Community at the link here