Everything has a start and so as the arduous journey to Spiti Valley over Hindustan – Tibet Road. Like all other journeys to the Himalayas, the road to Spiti Valley is full of adventure and is popularly known as the most treacherous road in the world.
However, before we get to know why, let me introduce you to this road to Spiti Valley or Hindustan – Tibet Highway or NH-05 (earlier called NH-22).
Let's quickly dive into the details:
The Road to Spiti Valley
After writing so many articles and covering most parts of Leh Ladakh in order to help fellow travelers plan their trips in the Trans-Himalayan region of Leh Ladakh, finally, it is time to start writing about its another facet called Spiti Valley.
Spiti Valley is another cold desert in the Trans-Himalayan region but it is situated in Himachal Pradesh. Spiti Valley is also sometimes termed as Little Ladakh and it is extremely difficult to say which one is better than the other. Personally, Spiti Valley offers almost everything Ladakh has to offer but smaller in size.
Just like Leh – Ladakh, Spiti Valley is also a heavenly place where people can lose their souls easily in the magical vistas spanning hundreds of miles in the Trans-Himalayan region. In the first article of the series on a comprehensive travel guide of Spiti Valley, I shared the most common itinerary for Spiti which can be followed to make a memorable Spiti Valley trip.
Now, let’s begin the detailed dissection of the trip to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur with an introduction of Hindustan – Tibet Road or the road to Spiti Valley
Naming Updates – NH22 is NH5 & SH-30 is NH505
Updated the article as on December 2017 because a lot of highways have been renamed including NH – 22 being renamed to National Highway 5 or NH5 and as mentioned in the wiki link. Now the NH5 connects Firozpur in Punjab to Shipki La pass at Sino-Indian border in Himachal Pradesh. Similarly, the road connecting Kaza to Tabo from Sumdo is now called as NH505 instead of State Highway – 30. This article has been updated with these name changes.
Difference Between Hindustan Tibet Road & NH-5
Hindustan Tibet Road is popularly known as one of the most adventurous and deadliest roads in the world overlapping the majority of the traditional silk routes and running alongside the National Highway 5 or NH-05 (earlier called NH-22).
The ride or self-drive over Hindustan Tibet Road running through some of the remotest and magnificent vistas is something hard to ever forget in your life. However, a lot of people confuse the Hindustan Tibet Road with NH5. So, let’s first see in this article what exactly is the difference between both of them and then we will look at the major attractions or places on this road to Spiti Valley in the next article.
In one of my discussions with few other experienced travelers at IndiaMike and going through that very thread plus many other resources, the following summary can be drawn between Hindustan – Tibet Road & NH-05 (earlier called NH-22).
NH-5 starts at Firozpur – Punjab
NH5 starts at Firozpur in Punjab and runs through Moga, Ludhiana, Kharar, Kalka to Shipki La border while Hindustan Tibet Road starts at Shimla and both are not aligned together for the majority of the parts except the common sections are only Shimla to Rampur, Wangtu to Tapri, and Puh to Khab.
NH-5 ends at Kaurik
NH5 ends at Kaurik on signboards but officially or legally near Shipki La and even Wikipedia sources say so. Kaurik as a village might not exist anymore but there should be a post for sure up there.
Hindustan Tibet Road ends at Shipki La
Hindustan Tibet Road ends at Shipki La from the Indian side but may extend further towards Shipki village and beyond into Tibet. It is like Shimla – Narkanda – Rampur – Gaura – Sarahan – Nichar – Wangtu – Tapri – Urni – Roghi – Kalpa – Pangi – Jangi – Labrang – Puh – Khab – Namgya – Shipki La – Shipki Village (Tibet) and maybe beyond.
There is no old and new Hindustan Tibet Road. There is only one Hindustan – Tibet Road that was an old one and other confusions are mostly with NH5.
State Highway – 30 or NH-505
From Sumdo police post (starting point of Spiti Valley), the State Highway – 30 (SH – 30 or NH505 (recently renamed)) leads you all the way to Tabo and then Kaza NH5 runs right uphill from a Y – Fork just after police checkpost leading you towards Kaurik. The left road leads you on SH – 30 / NH505 towards Tabo and Kaza.
Line of Actual Control
At Sumdo, you need to register yourself again at police checkpost as the region fall under Inner Line permit zone or near LAC (Line of Actual Control) and Foreigners need to submit their copy permits at Sumdo (Check more details on inner line permits for Spiti Valley and Kinnaur Valley)
To make it further clear, Hindustan Tibet Highway cuts off at Khab towards Namgia – Shipki La route and ends Kinnaur Valley only. While, NH5 takes you to Kaurik ahead of Sumdo (at least by the markings), hence just to the entrance of Spiti Valley. After the Kaurik Y – fork, it is State Highway – 30 / NH 505 that takes you deep into Spiti Valley towards Tabo and Kaza.
Thanks a lot to dear friend Vinci for his valuable inputs on some of the points above.
The bottom line is that you will be partially running over the Hindustan Tibet Road and partially over the NH5 to Travel to Spiti Valley from Shimla side. Now, we have some background in the differences between NH5 and Hindustan Tibet Road.
In the next article, I will talk in detail about the main attractions or places on Hindustan Tibet Road which most travelers can enjoy on the way to Spiti Valley. Updated the Link to the next article: Hindustan Tibet Road & NH5 | Interesting Places.
If you have any information about the differences between Hindustan Tibet Road & NH5, please do share with us as well so that it proves helpful for other fellow travelers. Also, if you know your friends or family are planning a trip to Spiti Valley, do share this article with them to help them make a memorable Spiti trip.