Situated high up in Trans Himalayan territory, Spiti Valley, meaning “the middle land”, is a place to travel at least once in a lifetime or may be for a person like me every now and then in a lifetime ;)… Like, Leh – Ladakh, I am quite fond of traveling to Spiti Valley too whose not only terrain and landscape is more or less similar to each other but even the culture has its history attached or co-related by one or the other means. Spiti Valley is a place that can surely leave you spell bound by its charismatic natural beauty and the Road to Spiti Valley is not far behind in decorating the entire trip with such beauty.
The road to Spiti Valley commonly known as Hindustan – Tibet Highway is a destination in itself and also termed as one of the treacherous or deadliest roads of the world. Hats off to the efforts of BRO for creating such a gem of a road network to the far flung trans Himalayan places like Spiti Valley. In this article of my “How to Travel” series, we will talk about How to plan a journey on Road to Spiti Valley or Hindustan – Tibet Highway
In order to visit this picturesque valley of the Trans – Himalayan region, either one can take a long 3 day journey over Hindustan – Tibet Highway running through Shimla – Kinnaur Valley OR they can tread along the path of Manali and then take Manali – Rohtang Pass – Kunzum Pass – Kaza (Spiti Valley) route. As a practice and to enjoy the route entirely, it is always better to do the complete circuit for the first time and then keep coming back from one or the other route to explore more and more places in Spiti Valley which is quite difficult to explore in just one trip.
Sometimes, people traveling or going directly to Spiti Valley or Kaza / Losar from Manali suffers from acute mountain sickness due to the sudden disturbance of altitude with which the body is adapted as Kaza is about 3600 Mtrs high in altitude. However, Hindustan – Tibet Highway provides a gradual ascent to travelers thus helps them fight any chances of acute mountain sickness (AMS) caused due to high altitudes and let them enjoy the beautiful vistas in relaxed manner.
However, when traveling over one of the most adventurous roads of the world that is Hindustan – Tibet Highway, we all must know about it, its terrain, the route & places that fall on this route, the accommodation, modes of travel, basic amenities on the route, time or season to visit etc. This will ensure that you have an unforgettable memory of the trip to Spiti Valley. The journey on road to Spiti Valley can easily turn into a nightmare if planned incorrectly and can get you in trouble, stranded in the middle of no where. In this article of the series, “Comprehensive Travel Guide to Spiti Valley”, I will try to put down all my knowledge for traveling to Hindustan – Tibet Highway or road to Spiti Valley.
Important Links for Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur
Before I dive into the specific details on planning the trip on road to Spiti Valley, I will suggest you to also refer these supporting articles of this on going series “Comprehensive Travel Guide to Spiti Valley”:
Season to Travel on Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur
To know what is the season that will suit you to travel on the road to Spiti Valley, check the article: Best Season to Travel on Road to Spiti Valley
Modes of Travel on Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur
Private Vehicles i.e. Cars and Bikes | Self Drive or Ride to Spiti Valley
Most people prefer to self drive or self ride to Spiti Valley by their own car or own bike and some also prefer to self drive or self ride to Spiti Valley by hiring a bike or car. In any case, hired car/bike or personal car/bike, idea is to live the passion of driving or riding through one of the toughest and adventurous terrains accessible not only in India but world i.e. Hindustan – Tibet Highway. You can take your own or rented, car or bike to Spiti Valley but one must be careful while driving or riding through slushy roads, snow and water crossing or nallas. Also, it is always handy to learn little maintenance tasks of your vehicle prior to the start of this arduous journey to Spiti Valley over Hindustan – Tibet Highway.
For cars, although an SUV/MUV is good to have and a 4WD SUV will definitely help but I have seen hatchbacks (including Altos and Nano) and sedans doing good enough job on Hindustan – Tibet Highway or in Spiti Valley. If you want to try your sedan or hatch back drive to Spiti Valley then one must drive with extra care and caution and especially in Kinnaur Valley and road from Kinnaur to Tabo.
Whenever you are in doubt, always step out of your car, walk down the path, inspect with your foot and plan the path of exit before crossing a dangerous landslide or water crossing on your vehicle. You can also park aside and see how others are crossing the risky section to plan your route of escape. In deep water crossings try to maintain the momentum without any half clutch measures and complete the entire stretch in one go only. Similarly, in slush stretches do not force the issue rather keep the smooth momentum with required speed to pass you through, without half clutch measures. Do keep an eye on the direction of the vehicle too. If you get stuck in slush then try to back and forth your vehicles to get out of the stuck position. It is always handy to ask your fellow co-travellers to get out of the car and push the vehicle from behind incase the car is struggling to pass through the slush or water crossing stretch. DO NOT forget to help other fellow travellers in need on the route.
Basic toolkit, screw driver set, small hammer, puncture repair kit, iron rod, two or three “2 ltr” empty bottles of pepsi / coke / limca etc to carry extra petrol or diesel (jerry cans will leak, cold drink bottles do not leak), funnel, towing rope, spare tube (must for bikes), elfy or fevi quick (2-3 sachets), jump start cables/wires, M-seal to prevent leakage etc. were among the few things which I carried along on my trip to Ladakh. Also, do not forget to get your vehicle (car/bike) serviced about 2-3 weeks before the start of the trans Himalayan journey. This will ensure that you have proper time in advance to test your serviced vehicle and get fixed any hitches that may have been introduced in that service.
Hiring a Private Taxi | Taxi Number or Private Number
You can also hire a taxi from Shimla or Delhi to travel on the road to Spiti Valley. It is always better to hire Xylo or Scorpio and mostly the charges ranges from 2500 to 3500 per day from Shimla depending upon season of travel and your bargaining skills. Better confirm from the driver if he has done the route over Spiti Valley and when was the last time he did go on that route. Many a times, drivers from Shimla are good but sometimes they are majorly bogged onto local routes which are in no comparison to the roads of Trans Himalayas. So, confirm twice before fixing a deal.
HRTC Bus Service &Shared Taxis| Economical mode of travel
HRTC buses ply buses on Chandigarh – Shimla – Reckong Peo – Kaza route along with some semi deluxe buses. I do not have much idea about fare, as soon as I get that, I will update it in this section but regarding timings there is one bus that starts from Chandigarh at 5.45 PM and reach Reckong Peo in the morning by 8 AM. Then, there is one bus that leaves Reckong Peo at 7 AM for Kaza by which you can go to Kaza or get down at Tabo which reaches Tabo around 3 PM.
In between, you can also buy yourself a seat in a shared taxi which runs between various places within Spiti Valley. Example, you can cover Dhangkar Monastery, Pin Valley, Kibber/Ki, Hikkim/Komik etc. all in shared taxis available from Tabo OR Kaza. Even shared taxis run between Losar and Kaza too.
Planning Night Stay or Accommodation on Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur
Based on my experience, you can opt to plan a journey on Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur or Hindustan – Tibet Highway in one of the following ways –
Three Day Journey on Hindustan – Tibet Highway
It is always better to traverse the road to Spiti Valley over Hindustan – Tibet Highway in 3 days, so that your body is well acclimatized to the high altitude of Spiti Valley as you ascend gradually within these 3 days. The general breakup is like below:
Day 1: Delhi – Narkanda
Day 2: Narkanda – Peo/Kalpa/Sangla
Day 3: Peo/Kalpa/Sangla – Tabo
You can start easily from Delhi and reach Narkanda by evening where you can relax for the rest of the evening and take rest for the day. After the opening of Panchkula to Parwanoo Toll road, it is quite an easy drive except jams around Shimla. Next day, you can start towards the adventurous journey by first getting down all the way to Rampur where you can halt for the lunch at either of HPTDC Satluj Cafe or HPTDC Bhushahar Regency. Food is OK and acceptable though not very good. Once you cross over Bhawa Nagar then you will start to see bad roads throughout Kinnaur. You can plan to stay either at Kalpa which is a bit off from main highway ahead of Reckong Peo but has many comfortable options of stay available. Or else, you can either stay at Sangla too but it might increase the distance on the next day. If you are interested in budget accommodation then you can also opt for a stay at Reckong Peo OR Shongtong Village
Finally, third day, you can start towards Spiti Valley to either stay at Tabo or Kaza. I always like to stay at Tabo so that I am least bothered of AMS and spend at least 3 nights at decent altitude before venturing to high altitude of Kaza. Another advantage of staying at Tabo is that you can cover Pin Valley or Dhangkar Monastery on the next day (Day 4) while going from Tabo to Kaza.
Two Day Journey on Hindustan – Tibet Highway
In case you are short on days and still want to travel the road to Spiti Valley over Hindustan – Tibet Highway but in 2 days, then you need to play with your fatigues levels and go for a long winding drive to Kinnaur on the first day itself. The general breakup is like below:
Day 1: Delhi – Peo/Ribba/Jangi (Almost 15+ Hrs drive/ride)
Day 2: Peo/Ribba – Tabo
You can start the day in the evening or night or late night say by 2 AM from Delhi and can continue drive/ride till next evening that is Day 1 to reach either Peo OR Ribba. Please keep in mind that you need to over fatigue, accustomed to such long drives in mountains and ready to toll for about 15+ Hrs on the road. You will reach either Peo or Ribba/Jangi exhausted enough. Peo has some good budgeted accommodation and Ribba/Jangi ahead of Peo/Powari have just HP PWD Rest Houses.
Again, this two day trip not recommended if you are with family or people who love a relaxing trip rather being just on the roads.
Most Common Itinerary on Hindustan – Tibet Highway
In case, you are interested in entire circuit including Kinnaur, Spiti & Manali and have about 10-12 days then you can also look at the link: Spiti Valley | Most Common Itinerary
Sightseeing on Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur
Traveling over this beautiful yet most adventurous road to Spiti Valley along Hindustan – Tibet Highway is a sightseeing in itself. However, while traversing over it there are some fabulous places which you can visit alongside this highway to heaven. To name few,
Shimla, Narkanda (Hatu Peak, Tanijubbar Lake), Daranghaati, Kinnaur Valley (Sarahan, Kalpa, Sangla, Chitkul), Nako Lake, Khab, Shipki La Pass, Mummy at Geyu Village, Moorang Fort etc.
Special thanks to Dhananjay for couple of amazing routes mentioned below as tips for a pleasant change in case you are repeating the journey some twice or thrice. However, keep in mind that being link roads, these routes will take more time while reaching your destination as compared to quite wider national highway but can be a retreat from the busy National highway in his words ;). Anyways, he suggests, one can:
Look at the ridgeline road option from Narkanda till Sarahan. From Narkanda to Baghi, Khadrala, Sungri, Bahli, Taklech, uphill to Daranghati, down to Mashnu, Kinnu, Gharat and then Sarahan.
Also from Kalpa the route to Pangi, Rarang, Jangi and then down to Kiran Khud just 3 kms before Spillo can also be followed to get a different feel of the place.
For more details of these interesting places that comes over Hindustan – Tibet Highway, you can read the article: Hindustan Tibet Road & NH – 22 | Interesting Places
List of Accommodation or Stay Options on Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur
Among two of the top most adventurous roads of India, Hindustan – Tibet Highway is much better than Manali – Leh Highway in terms of accommodation options it offers and one can find decent place to stay within 100 odd KMs at max. At some places like beyond Jeori while going from Shimla, the accommodation options could be very limited and basic guest house / home stay types including HP PWD Guest Houses widely spread across this tribal belt. On the other hand, you the places like Shimla, Narkanda, Rampur, Reckong Peo, Sangla, Kalpa etc. does offer varied amount of accommodation options which may suits the budget for different pockets. So, it always better to break the journey at Shimla/Narkanda, then in Kinnaur at Kalpa, Peo or Sanlga Valley.
Apart from private accommodation options, you can also go ahead and vouch for many PWD Rest Houses along the entire road to Spiti Valley, which are though comfortable and economic but may not suit needs of every family. Also, you require bookings for them and sometimes in case of some VIP visit they may try to push you though not in rights. But, 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
Please keep in mind that Kalpa and Sangla are not exactly on Hindustan – Tibet Highway and you need to take diversions near Karcham for Sangla Valley and near Powari towards Reckong Peo – Kalpa.
Acclimatization & its importance on Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur
Like Manali – Leh Highway, the journey on road to Spiti Valley over Hindustan – Tibet Highway is quite treacherous, in fact more than it BUT it goes through gradual increase in altitude thereby helping our body to get acclimatized properly for the high altitude of Spiti Valley. That is why going through Hindustan – Tibet Highway is always preferred for road trip to Spiti Valley as compared to than going via Manali – Kunzum Pass – Kaza route. While traveling to Spiti Valley from this route through Kinnaur Valley, one gives himself a chance to properly acclimatize to the high altitudes there by decreasing the chances of being hit by AMS. In the return leg, you can come back to Delhi via Kaza – Kunzum Pass – Manali route to complete the entire circuit. This helps you enjoy the whole or high altitude places of Spiti Valley including Chandratal Lake in a much better way as well.
Having said that even on Hindustan – Tibet Highway, it is always good that you take little precautions to further minimize the effects of high altitude sickness. Here are some tips which will help acclimatizing the body faster in first few days of the trip:
- Try to reach Spiti Valley or perhaps Kaza with at least 3 night stays over Hindustan – Tibet Highway viz. Narkanda, Kalpa, Tabo and then finally Kaza on the fourth night
- Keep your body properly hydrated.
- Avoid sleeping at high altitudes earlier in the trip.
- Avoid over exertion.
- Avoid tobacco and smoking and alcohol and other depressant drugs.
- Keep your body warm and eat lots of carbohydrates.
- Avoid sleep during the day.
- Sleep in upright position, if possible.
- Carry preventive medicines for AMS.
- Immediately descend, if symptoms increase.
For more information on Acute Mountain Sickness and all above acclimatization tips, please refer the following link at least once: Acute Mountain Sickness and Importance of Acclimatization
Fuel or Petrol Pumps on Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur
You will be able to find fuel pumps only at: Shimla, Theog, Narkanda, Rampur, Jeori, Tapri, Reckong Peo, Kaza It is very important not to miss to refuel at Kaza as well as may be Reckong Peo if you are staying at Kalpa or Peo. There used to be one fuel pump at Powari but during my recent visit to Spiti Valley in May 2013, that was not functional. However, there was new Petrol Pump at Tapri now. Also, there comes a petrol pump once you cross Rampur town completely whose quality is good enough along with Narkanda Fuel pump.
I only use Narkanda, last fuel pump at Rampur (while going from Shimla) and Kaza to refuel petrol in my car.
ATMs on Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur
As per my knowledge there are ATMs available only at Shimla, Reckong Peo and Rampur There is no ATM at Kaza as well AFAIK, so no ATM in Spiti Valley. Hence, it is adviced that you carry cash from Manali if coming from that side or any of the ATMs at Shimla, Reckong Peo and Rampur. I guess you should carry enough cash with you on trans Himalayan trips because ATMs at these limited places can run out of money or become un-operational at any day or time.
Places on Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur
Generally, the places of on Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur including Hindustan – Tibet Highway goes like Shimla – Kufri – Narkanda – Rampur – Jeori – Tapri – Karcham – Powari – Akpa – Moorang – Spillow – Puh – Khab – Nako – Maling – Chango – Shialkhar – Sumdo – Tabo – Kaza. You can read about all these places in more details in the article: Hindustan Tibet Road & NH – 22 | Interesting Places
The approximate distances along with altitude between these places is shown depicted in the chart below. This will help you judge over acclimatization schedule too.
Hindustan – Tibet Road Altitude & Distance Graph
Facilities or Amenities on Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur OR Hindustan – Tibet Highway
Accommodations / Stay Options
|Food / Beverages||Lots of options all the way up to Powari, then few options at every other small villages / hamlets all the way up to Kaza.|
|Diesel / Petrol Pumps||Shimla, Theog, Narkanda, Rampur, Jeori, Tapri, Reckong Peo, Kaza There was one at Powari too but think it has been closed and Tapri has a new one, dated May 2013|
|Fixed Phones||Almost all the towns/villages en-route Spiti Valley have fixed landline telephone connectivity and I wonder if there is any town which lacks it, apart from very tiny hamlets.|
|Electricity||Almost all the towns/villages en-route Spiti Valley have electricity and I wonder if there is any town which lacks it, apart from very tiny hamlets.|
|Medical Facilities||Majority of the villages en-route Spiti Valley have medical facilities as local dispensaries and some big towns like Reckong Peo, Rampur, Kaza etc. have bigger hospitals. You can get basic to mediocre medical treatments at these facilities en-route.|
|ATMs||Shimla, Rampur, Reckong Peo (No ATM in Spiti, so carry cash)|
|Mechanic / Puncture Shops||
|Liquor Shops||Shimla, Rampur, Reckong Peo, Kaza. There could be more in between but rest I am not aware of 😉|
Have you ever been to Spiti Valley through Hindustan – Tibet Highway or via Manali? If yes, please share your view points, suggestions or inputs as comments below, it will help other fellow travelers to plan their own journey on one of the treacherous BUT beautiful highway of India that is Hindustan – Tibet Highway.
Are you planning to go to Spiti Valley via Hindustan – Tibet Highway or Manali? If yes, please feel free to ask any queries or doubts you have regarding the your plan either in comments section OR in the DoW – Himalayan Travel Community & Forums. I will be happy to reply and discuss them with you. Looking forward for your responses 🙂