The beautiful town of Kalpa in Kinnaur Valley is a picturesque little sleepy village with views that can’t be compared. Once you reach this wonderland of Kalpa, you’ll be hard-pressed to let the memories faint for a lifetime. It is a shame that this beautiful village is often treated as a transit town en-route to the Spiti Valley trip.
However, I must urge you to explore the quaintness of Kalpa! The panoramic and ever-evolving views of Kinner Kailash (aka Kinnaur Kailash) are simply breathtaking. So, when planning a trip to Kinnaur Valley, do take out sufficient days/time to soak in the beauty of Kalpa village.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
All About Kalpa, Himachal Pradesh
Kalpa is situated at an elevation of 9711 feet and is located in the Sutlej Valley of Kinnaur district. Often known as the connector of Spiti, Kalpa is also the base of Kinner Kailash, a Shivling peak rising up to 20,000 Ft). Kinnaur Kailash is visible from all over Kalpa and tends to change colors based on the reflections throughout the day.
Kalpa’s syncretism of the Hindu & Buddhist religions leads to a way of life that is defined by peace and harmony. So much so, there’s even a considerable settlement of Bengali people, thanks to multiple pilgrimages nearby. This culmination of cultures and acceptance of a similar pace of life makes life in this hamlet seem easy, relaxed.
But, the moment you look out and see the mighty Himalayas staring you down and remind you of your place in life. It fills you with awe for the Kinners and the hardships they might face.
Synonymous with the region, the slopes of this magical land are flaunted by the majestic Deodars and the dignified Chilgoza and stately pine-nuts. With apple orchards aplenty, Kalpa is a lush green delight.
The distance of Delhi to Kalpa is 580 km. Kalpa is around 235 KMS from the state capital, Shimla, and slightly over the district headquarter of Reckong Peo. This location provides Kalpa with just enough commercialization to ensure smoothness.
Weather in Kalpa
Always cool to cold, whether it is pleasantly chilly of the summer months, or the excruciatingly cold of the winter months, Kalpa requires you to be snuggled up. Winter months see snowfall throughout, with few Ft of snow being a common phenomenon.
Summer temperatures usually average between 10-25 degrees Celsius. July till September are monsoon months, and it can rain anytime, from mild showers to intense rainfall, that can even cause landslides. Kalpa temperature remains pleasant or cool through the majority of the year barring the months of winter.
Kalpa in March to June
March is when tourist starts to visit Kalpa as the heat starts to plump up in plains. The weather is cool in March. Then as the spring and summer months approach, Kalpa is flocked by so many tourists from April to June – July period. After the middle of July and rain starts to bother the region and the road trip to Kinnaur Valley becomes a bit problematic.
Kalpa in August
The monsoon season, while pretty, tend to be very tricky for the tourism industry in Kinnaur Valley and Kalpa region given the many frights of landslides that the fragile hilly terrain experiences. The whole region is of Kinnaur is pretty fragile for landslides and in August, it is pretty common to experience these landslides and road-blocks.
Kalpa in September to November
September to mid-October is one of the best months to visit Kalpa as the apple season is going on and the weather is enjoyable and favorable. The roads are in much better shape as well. As the end of October and November comes, the winter chill starts to set in especially in morning and evening in Kalpa.
Kalpa in December to February
December to February period is said to be the winter months in Kinnaur Valley. In Kalpa, winter temperature touches -15 to -20 degrees Celsius. Here, you should note that the roads to Kalpa may close with the heavy snowfall around the middle of December for a few days. However, the road gets open pretty quickly as soon as the snow settled. Hence, plan your trip with buffer days in hand.
What is the best time to visit Kalpa?
This would depend on what you want to experience. Since the roads are mostly connected for the entirety of the year, this means you can make this journey when you prefer.
However, Summer months make for the easiest trips with lots to do and explore. August/ September is harvest season for the apples and makes for a sight to never be forgotten, with the entire vistas turning into colors of the fertility of the land. The thrilling roads of Hindustan – Tibet Highway leading up to Kalpa and the clear blue skies make for the perfect adventure, with enough safety mixed in.
Having said all that, September – October, and April – May are two windows that I consider as the best time to visit Kalpa in Kinnaur Valley.
You should also read my article on the best time to visit Kinnaur Valley for more details.
How to reach Kalpa – Kinnaur
The enticing journey to Kalpa can be taken via two primary routes – via Shimla and via Manali. The best route to take to Kalpa from Delhi is via
Delhi » Chandigarh » Shimla (2200 mt) » Narkanda (2708 mt) » Rampur(1350mt) » Karcham (1813 mt) » Reckong Peo(2290 mt) » Kalpa(2960 mt)
The Route from Delhi to Kalpa via Shimla
I would strongly suggest sticking to the Shimla route, given it is more commercial and has an easier ascend. The drive is still insanely adventurous, though. In addition to it, the route to Kalpa from Shimla is the shortest route.
You’ll need to take the route from Chandigarh to Shimla and cross Reckong Peo to reach Kalpa. This journey can be completed in 12 hours, including stops on way and zooms you through 300 KMS of the hilly stretch.
An ideal stop point on this route is Sarahan. Sarahan has a beautiful Bhimakali temple with gorgeous architecture and splendid views.
Love food on the road trip?
Also, a pit-stop-must is a makeshift dhaba of sorts right after Sarahan where an old lady serves lip-smacking Rajma Chawal. Yes, the hygiene is slightly questionable, but it is a dhaba after-all! The taste is unbeatable. Rs 50 for an unlimited plate of Rajma Chawal – sign me up! Apart from that Annapurna dhabha near Jeori is the pretty famous for Rajma Chawal too.
Tapri to Kalpa
You’ll reach Tapri, where you’ll spot a petrol pump. Now, this is a fairly reliable petrol pump. The one ahead might or might not have fuel. Fill up!
After crossing Karcham, right by the river bed, you’ll reach Powari. From there, take a left and start a steep climb of approximately 20 km, through multiple hairpins bends taking you higher up.
The views on this drive will have you mesmerized. The higher up you go, the more unbelievable it seems and then you reach Reckong Peo – the Kinnaur district’s headquarter.
This is where you’ll get your inner line permits for moving up towards Spiti if you are a foreigner. Domestic tourists do not require inner line permits for Kinnaur and Spiti Valley.
7 km up ahead lies Kalpa village, your beautiful destination. Once you reach Kalpa, you’ll the enchanted by the Kinnaur Kailash peaks engulfing you!
The Route from Delhi to Kalpa via Manali
The second option is to take the longer route to Kalpa either from the Jalori Pass route or travel through much longer Manali to Kaza – Nako – Kinnaur route. From Jalori Pass, the distance is approximately 310 KMs and taken 12-15 hours.
An overnight stay will be required. You will be crossing the Shoja – Jalori Pass for reaching Rampur. The route then combines with the Shimla route, taking you through to Jeori (Sarahan diversion point) and onwards to Kalpa.
Nearest Airport is Shimla (235 km). Bhuntar Airport near Manali is approximately 255 KMS from Kalpa. However, due to their small size, these airports have limited capacity and connectivity. Chandigarh Airport lies approximately 350 KMs from Kalpa.
Hence, Chandigarh is the best place to start the journey to Kalpa if you are flying from any other part of India than Delhi or other Northern states.
Shimla is the nearest railway station. However, this would also have limited connectivity. My suggestion would be to have your endpoint of the railway journey as Chandigarh, which is well connected.
By Bus or Public Transport
There is an AC bus from Chandigarh, which reaches Shimla around 11 AM and then further connects to Reckong Peo. Also, there are two non-AC buses from Shimla till Reckong Peo. From there, you can connect to Kalpa through a local bus or hire a taxi (available at the bus stand, both sharing and personal use). An online ticket booking facility is also available on HRTC.
There isn’t any direct Shimla to Kalpa bus but as you can see you can get the direct bus to Reckong Peo from Shimla or Chandigarh and then travel to Kalpa easily.
You should look more details in the article on visiting Kinnaur Valley by public transport.
Reaching Kalpa will be a never-forget journey. The thrilling adventure is unmatchable, thanks to the high escalation on the mountains in crossing different valleys of the Kinnaur region. The lush green of the forested mountains complemented by the cobalt blue of the skies almost makes one forget the insanely difficult roads. There is a reason they are called the most treacherous roads in the world.
Personally, the trip on Manali Leh highway seemed easier in comparison to the trip to Kalpa and further to Spiti Valley! This fact is primarily because on the Manali-Leh road trip; you’re usually driving close to the river bed unless you’re ascending for some massive mountain pass. In comparison, for the Kinnaur Trip, the roads are carved at higher points of the hills, always more enthralling.
What are your opinions on this? Which is the more difficult drive – Kinnaur – Spiti or Manali Leh Highway ?? Comment below!
Taxis for Kalpa
Taxis to Kalpa are available from Shimla to reach any destination in Himachal Pradesh. You can always get connected with local taxi drivers in this list of taxi drivers in Kinnaur and Spiti Valley. However, this might be an expensive affair – costing anywhere around INR 20,000 depending on the number of days of the trip (as of 2018). In general, these local drivers charge from Rs 3000-3500 per day.
But, if you’re traveling in a group, this might not be that expensive of a proposition. And given that Shimla is an extremely commercial tourist town brush up on your haggling and bargaining skills – will come in handy! Further, self-drive cars available in Delhi and Chandigarh are a great way to travel, and you can easily book from your starting location point.
You can cover the town of Kalpa on foot – no matter how long the walks might be and what incline you’d need to climb. But, to cover the surrounding activities and areas, a car will be required. If you’re traveling in your car or bike or vehicle, you’re your own master. Else, local cab drivers are available near Reckong Peo bus stand or Kalpa Chowk.
Attractions near Kalpa
The two best sunsets and sunrises of my life, I have witnessed in this sleepy town. The expression that your jaw-dropping looking upon something was probably invented here, thanks to the view. While it is my job to describe things for you to be able to picture yourself in a particular place, this is one such moment; you need to experience to understand! The backdrop of Kinnaur Kailash, the mighty Himalayas in general and the effervescence of the setting sun is a combination made in heaven.
Another activity when in Kalpa is visiting the Sapni Fort – while this historical and heritage opens only once every seven years, it has such beautiful wooden architecture that visiting the premises nestled in the surrounding Himalayas is a beautiful experience. Inside the Fort is a Kali Temple. The fort is walkable from any point in Kalpa.
Roghi Village is approximately 8 KMS from Kalpa and inhabits both lovely gardens and village houses. This place is popular for its traditional village life and multitudes of orchards. The road to Roghi is a little treacherous as you have to navigate cliff en-route, so be prepared and diligent in your driving.
Kalpa Suicide point is en-route Roghi Village, with a sharp drop – giving the place its name. Personally, I don’t endorse such names for places in the hills, as the hills are my happy place and associating a place with such negative energy is uncalled for. So, this spot is Roghi’s point for me.
For the adventure lovers and enthusiasts, Chaka Meadows hike is a splendid hike taking you through beautiful vistas. Fairly easy trek, you’ll not face that much difficulty for completing the task at hand.
By doing so, you’ll be rewarded by the most spectacular views, untouched by humans and sun-kissed for beauty! The only advice I can offer to start the day off early, as while the sun is beautiful, it makes the hike tricky since you’d be tired more easily.
While your hotel’s restaurants will gladly serve you with excellent, piping hot, north Indian food, there is a tonne of options near the Kalpa Chowk for you to experience the authentic cuisine of the region.
I must mention that whenever you’re in Kinnaur, you definitely must try the local tea – Cha. Cha is a salty Kinnauri tea that the Kinners swear by. Yes, it is an acquired taste, and the first time you try it, your senses will be in shock. But, the beauty of enjoying a morning cuppa Cha with the Kinner Kailash in the background surely will be worth it!
The local community typically comprises of rice eaters and is majorly non-vegetarian and goat meat preparations are especially distinctively tasty – do relish the curry for a true culinary experience.
Unusual for the Hills
Also, if you’re craving some seafood, there is a massive settlement of Bengalis in the regions, thanks to multiple pilgrimage points nearby. What’s even more delightful is that the Bongs own quite a few hotels, and some are restaurateurs. If you’re anything like me and love the Masaledar Bengali Cuisine, your taste buds will thank you for discovering that flavor in the hills.
Another thing to note, alcohol forms a part of the daily life of a local Kalpa resident. Here, they distill it at the household level from fruits like grapes, apples, pears, etc. Some crops are grown locally, such as Barley.
I have always noticed that food in the hills tastes so much better. I am unsure of why, however, the fresh produce right from the source, clean air, lesser pollution and the love and effort put into the cooking of food might have something to do with it. Would you agree with this? Comment below!
A paradise for shoppers, Kinnaur is famous for so many things. Enjoy exploring the town market for Handlooms and Handicrafts, including Kinnauri Shawls, caps, mufflers, articles of wood carvings, unique silver, and gold ornaments.
Of course, when in Kinnaur you MUST also devour upon apples. Kalpa also is famous for its almonds, chilgoza, Ogla, and apricots, as well as grapes. Good luck keeping your purse strings closed.
Where to stay in Kalpa
There is a tonne of options to stay, both in Kalpa and Reckong Peo. A word of advice would be to cross Reckong Peo and even climb up much of Kalpa to reach a higher up point. The views are unbelievable, and sitting in your hotel’s balcony, sipping on Cha, and enjoy the majestic Kinner Kailash is a MUST.
Whether you’re the kind of person who likes to reach a place and negotiate a price then and there or you’re a planner who likes peace of mind in terms of stay options – Kalpa can easily support both. Just ensure your views include the Kinner Kailash peaks.
In terms of decent hotels – Hotel Apple Pie, Kalpa is a beautiful property with a moderate budget but worth the money spent. Run by the humble and hospitable Aman Ahuja whom you can contact at +919857985700,+919999934003.
Another good place to stay in Kalpa is Hotel Rakpa Regency. You can reach Raj Sharma at 01786-226587, +91-9805213356 (Whatsapp), +91-7018831844. On DoW Mega Meet 2014, we stayed at Rakpa Regency and Raj took care of the entire group of 75 folks easily.
You can check the list of some good accommodation or stay options in Kinnaur Valley.
There are a few camping spots near the village, and you can easily spot some locals to help you out! So, do not hesitate to take your camping gear and spend a night under a billion-star sky.
Most Common Kalpa Itinerary
Kalpa is not on the radar of most people traveling to Dev Bhoomi Himachal. However, it SHOULD BE! While most folks treat Kalpa as a transit town on the way to Spiti (Kalpa to Kaza is 215 km) – I strongly urge you to explore this little hamlet genuinely. Kalpa is the connector of Upper Kinnaur with Lower Kinnaur.
While the hills tend to bring you immense peace and one can experience true tranquillity, I am a huge believer that to gain perspective, you must delve deeper. Kalpa provides you with that opportunity. So, next time you’re craving some mountain air, move further than Manali and Shimla and get yourself some Kalpa magic. Heck, make a trip out of just the Kinnaur Valley.
In terms of the route, I believe the Shimla-Reckong Peo-Kalpa route is far easier – thanks to the many facilities available on the route. Once you reach the idyllic village, don’t rush away. Of course, that is not the Himachali way.
Kalpa to Chitkul – Sangla Valley
Nearby places of Chitkul and Sangla are great places to cover in your adventure of Lower- Kinnaur. Trust me, this is the perfect combination of Charm and adventure.
I strongly advise staying for a minimum of 1-2 days in Kalpa – this little village of Kinnaur Valley. However, a lot of travelers of the region tend to take a day-trip from Kalpa to Chitkul from Sangla and then head back to Kalpa or home. Of course, this is primarily due to the availability of more hotels along Sangla, Kalpa, and Rakcham with more connectivity.
It is better to visit Kalpa first because it helps in the acclimatization and sleeping directly at the altitude of Chitkul may result in AMS issues.
Match your pace with the pace of nature and your surroundings, forget the time running out, and calmly be. To truly relax and unwind, spend a couple of days here. For adventure lovers, there’s a tonne of activities that you can do!
You can follow my detailed and comprehensive day by day itinerary for Kinnaur Valley.
Other Tips & Tricks
- ATM – Easily available, Reckong Peo is the headquarters of the Kinnaur District.
- Petrol Pump – If venturing from Shimla, one petrol pump available at Tapri and then at Reckong Peo. However, in between, there are plenty of petrol pumps from Shimla to Kinnaur region. If traveling from Manali – Spiti Valley route, then one is available at Manali and then Kaza. So, do not miss the Kaza petrol pump.
- Medical Help: A few dispensaries are there in Kalpa. However, a well-equipped hospital is situated in Reckong Peo.
- Mobile Connectivity: Great phone connectivity, no matter what network you’re on. In terms of the internet, you’ll easily receive 3G/4G signals throughout the town and Reckong Peo.
- Clothes to Carry: No matter the time of the year, Kalpa is always chilly. It is advisable to carry warm clothes, and depending on the activities you take on, it would make sense also to have waterproof shoes or hiking boots or gloves, etc. Especially if you’re planning on trekking the Kinner Kailash range then do ensure that you carry enough necessities.
- Preferred Vehicles: Higher ground clearance vehicles are not necessary for making a trip to the region. It completely depends on your driving skills and how well you can maneuver the mountains!
Still, need a reason to visit Kalpa?
A secluded, untouched place which beckons you to calm down, Kalpa surely will not disappoint. Magical views all around, each angle your lookout on will be a picture-perfect postcard.
Something for everyone, Kalpa ensures you get what you’re looking for in your travel! Need to relax and unwind? Just look out at the views! Looking for thrilling adventures? Go to nearby treks! Want to explore the Himachali history? Venture into the village life! Wanting to connect with nature? Look no further!
Give Kalpa a chance not to be a transit town anymore, and it will become a cherished memory for a lifetime, I can guarantee! The views of Kinner Kailash will stay with you for a very long time to come.
Please feel free to post any queries or doubts you might have in planning your trip to Kalpa in the comments section below. If you have been to Kalpa, I would love to hear your thoughts and any other information you might feel will be worth sharing with other fellow travelers and prove helpful to them as comments.
The next blog post will cover the vistas of Sangla and all the wonderful details you need to fully enjoy your rendezvous with the Kinnaur Valley.
If you know your friends or family are planning a trip to Kalpa or Kinnaur Valley, do share this article with them to help them make a memorable Kinnaur trip.