Continuing on towards laying the foundation of comprehensive Travel Guide for Spiti Valley and as discussed in the last article about Hindustan Tibet Highway, first let’s cover the lower Kinnaur Valley in depth before going further towards upper Kinnaur Valley and Spiti Valley.
The lower part of Kinnaur Valley is also very much visited by many people during summertime due to ease of accessibility from Shimla/Delhi/Chandigarh and less crowded or offbeat location. By lower Kinnaur, I mean that I will be covering Kalpa, Sangla Valley and Chitkul in this travel guide and maybe upper parts like Nako, Chango, Ropa, Hangrang can be covered in time to come, if required.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Kinnaur Valley Travel Guide
Kinnaur Valley is one of the 12 districts in Himachal Pradesh which is known for its apple orchards, beautiful small hamlets, beautiful meadows surrounded with thick dense woods and not to forget the ever-adventurous roads. One of the roads to Sangla Valley was also got popularly featured by the name Ledge in History Channel as Deadliest Roads in the World 🙂
This adds just the right charm of adventure on the trip. In winters, the presence of snow makes it just a jaw-dropping experience to be in Kinnaur Valley, where the major attraction is the breathtaking view of Kinner Kailash, a mountain sacred to Hindus, close to the Tibetan border.
The beautiful meadows in Sangla or Baspa Valley and Chitkul which is considered the last village in India where one can reach from Kinnaur side, are also covered commonly on a trip to this part of Himalayas.
Kinnaur Valley is located in the Northeast corner of Himachal Pradesh, about 235 KMs from the state capital, Shimla. The distance of Delhi to Kinnaur Valley is about 570 km considering Reckong Peo. It makes Kinnaur Valley not so far from civilization yet so raw and offbeat.
Kinnaur Valley has a mountainous area, ranging in altitude from 2,320 Mtrs to 6,816 Mtrs (7,610 ft to 22,362 ft) where Kalpa is located at an altitude of 2,960 Mtrs (9,710 ft) and Sangla Valley is located at an altitude of 2,696 Mtrs (8,900 ft). Chitkul is the highest in the lot at an altitude of about 3,450 Mtrs (11,320 ft).
In general, people face AMS issues if they spend the second night directly at Chitkul. Hence, it is always recommended to spend a night in Sangla or Kalpa before sleeping overnight at Chitkul.
Weather in Kinnaur Valley
The majority of the year Kinnaur weather is mostly cool to cold. Even in the summer months, you can feel the coolness in the breeze especially in the morning and evening. You will find snowfall in Kinnaur in winter months and a few feet of snow being a common phenomenon.
In summer months, the temperature in Kinnaur revolves around 15-25 degrees Celsius. Come July – August, the rain begins to play spoilsport with landslides and road closures getting common.
Kinnaur in December – January – February
When you visit Kinnaur in winter months, you must prepare very well with heavy woolen clothing. Many hotels remain closed in most parts of Kinnaur Valley. The road to Chitkul closes down in January and February. It can open anytime in December.
Roads to Kalpa and Sangla also closes in between intermittently but as soon as bad weather settles, authorities open up the road connectivity to these tourist destinations in Kinnaur Valley.
Kinnaur in March to July
The snow starts to melt in March and the closed roads within Kinnaur Valley, like the road to Chitkul, start to get open to welcome tourists. The heat starts to rise as we approach the summer months after spring in Kinnaur.
There is a heavy tourist rush from April end to June – July period. Once you get into the last week of July, monsoon lashes Northern parts of India. The road journey to Kinnaur becomes problematic.
Kinnaur in August
Monsoon is one of the worst times to visit lower hills in the Himalayas, including Himachal. And then, combining rains with fragile mountains of Kinnaur Valley, it becomes a deadly combination. Hence, I strongly feel that Kinnaur is not the place to be in monsoon. The entire Kinnaur region is very fragile, and road closures are pretty common.
Kinnaur in September to November
Once the rain goes away, the apple harvest season begins in Kinnaur Valley from late August to September. It runs up to the middle of October in the upper parts of Kinnaur Valley. I do feel that it becomes one of the best times to visit Kinnaur because even the roads are dried up and much better in road conditions, including stability. In November, the temperature starts to go toward sub-zero conditions, and water in pipes starts to freeze at night. The winter chill is there to welcome you.
What is the best time to visit Kinnaur Valley?
You can visit this beautiful valley throughout the major part of the year, but in winter things get very tough and heavy snowfall makes it inaccessible sometimes too. But, apart from peak winters in Kinnaur Valley, including Kalpa and Sangla Valley, Kinnaur can be visited throughout the rest of the year without much fuss.
It is important to note that monsoon is not the right time to be in Kinnaur Valley due to common landslides and worse roads, so in any case avoid monsoons My favorite time to visit Kinnaur Valley is Autumn or Fall, when monsoon just resides away and you might still see some apple orchards loaded with apples with clear skies in the background.
Also, please note that Chitkul becomes inaccessible at the time of peak winters, so please avoid going there in late winters without knowing the weather conditions. One snowfall can trap you for months in Chitkul :)…
In case you are going in Apple Season, that is around Late July or August in Kinnaur Valley then be ready for a massive mess of trucks traffic too along with rains and landslides.
Travel Tip: Read my detailed article on best time to travel to Kinnaur Valley.
How to Reach Kinnaur Valley
Below is the most general route to Kinnaur Valley from Delhi that most people usually follow. You can reach Kinnaur on the second day with an overnight halt at Narkanda or anywhere away from Shimla or Chail. However, if you are visiting Manali, then you can travel to Kinnaur Valley from Manali as well via Jalori Pass or the longer Spiti Valley route.
Delhi to Kinnaur from Shimla side by Road
The route to Kinnaur Valley from Delhi via Shimla runs along the Hindustan Tibet Road or NH-05 (previously called NH-22). You will be traveling on one of the most treacherous roads as soon as you enter Kinnaur Valley. The sense of adventure is pure bliss, and in case you drive yourself, you will enjoy the offroading in some sections of Kinnaur.
The route from Delhi along with the distance between the subsequent places is as follows:
Delhi – Shimla (360 KMs) – Narkanda (420 KMs) – Rampur (488 KMs) – Karcham (566 KMs) – Reckong Peo (587 KMs) – Kalpa (595 KMs)
At Karcham, the road bifurcates towards Sangla Valley and Chitkul as per below distance between these places.
Delhi – Shimla (360 KMs) – Narkanda (420 KMs) – Rampur (488 KMs) – Karcham (566 KMs) – Sangla (582 KMs) – Rakcham (596 KMs) – Chitkul (610 KMs)
You will reach Kalpa or Sangla on this road trip to Kinnaur Valley in a minimum of 2 days from Delhi. Mostly, Narkanda or somewhere near Shimla / Chail – Narkanda is an ideal overnight halt to distribute the journey evenly. If you are starting from Chandigarh, you can consider taking an overnight halt at Sarahan as well. The road to Sarahan bifurcates from Jeori which is 23 km from Rampur. The distance from Jeori to Sarahan is 12 km only.
Love food on the Kinnaur road trip?
Also, a pit-stop-must is a makeshift dhabha of sorts right after Jeori – Sarahan diversion where an old lady serves lip-smacking Rajma Chawal. Yes, the hygiene is slightly questionable, but it is a dhabha after-all! The taste is unbeatable. Rs 50 for an unlimited plate of Rajma Chawal – sign me up! Apart from that Annapurna dhabha nearby it also is pretty famous for Rajma Chawal too.
Delhi to Kinnaur from Manali side by Road
You can travel to Kinnaur Valley from Manali well. There are two routes that exist. The shorter route that goes from Jalori Pass – Rampur and the longer route in which you travel from Rohtang Pass – Kunzum Pass route while making a Spiti Valley trip from Manali side.
The distance from Manali to Kinnaur via Jalori Pass route is 310 km and will take 12-15 hrs. This route will merge at Rampur on Hindustan – Tibet Highway and then follows the route via Shimla to Kinnaur. I recommend staying overnight at Jalori to break the journey evenly. If you travel from the Spiti side, then it is better to explore Spiti Valley and then travel down to Kinnaur.
The nearest airport to Kinnaur Valley is at Shimla, about 220 km away. If you are traveling from the Manali side, then you can get down at the Bhuntar Airport which is near Manali. Bhuntar is approximately 245 KMS from Reckong Peo, the center of Kinnaur. However, due to their small size, these airports have limited capacity and connectivity.
Chandigarh Airport lies approximately 340 km. Hence, Chandigarh is the best place to start the journey to Kinnaur Valley 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 throughout.
By Bus or Public Transport
Reckong Peo is well connected with Chandigarh and Shimla by direct buses run by HRTC, the state bus department of Himachal Pradesh. There is an overnight bus from Chandigarh to Reckong Peo, and one bus leaves Shimla around 11 AM. Once you reach Reckong Peo, you can travel to Kalpa, Sangla, and Chitkul by connecting buses within Kinnaur Valley.
Reckong Peo is also connected by a daily morning bus from Kaza in Spiti Valley as well. So, you can travel from Spiti to Kinnaur as well by public transport.
You should look more details in the article on how to visit Kinnaur by public transport.
Taxis for Kalpa
You can get private taxis for trips to Kinnaur Valley from Shimla taxi stand. These taxis can also come to Chandigarh or New Delhi for a pickup. I always recommend traveling with local drivers or taxis in remote regions of the Himalayas like Kinnaur and Spiti.
You can always get connected with local taxi drivers in this list of taxi drivers in Kinnaur and Spiti Valley. Hiring a private taxi for a Kinnaur road trip may cost you about Rs 25000 for 7-8 days. In general, these local drivers charge from Rs 3200-3500 per day for taxi charges which includes everything including their own stays and food.
The prices will come down if you’re traveling in a group. You can also book self-drive cars from Delhi or Chandigarh to plan a road trip to Kinnaur as well.
The higher ground clearance vehicles are preferable and 4×4 ones not required. However, quite a few people make a trip to Kinnaur Valley in hatchbacks and sedan cars as well. So, it all depends upon your skills to drive and the road conditions at the time of travel.
You can always refer my list of top 40 things to carry on a self drive trip to Kinnaur.
Suggested Itinerary for Kinnaur Valley
I mostly recommend people to spare at least 7-8 days to plan a relaxing trip to Kinnaur Valley. This much days will help you explore the beautiful places on Hindustan Tibet Road as well as relax in the enchanting and peaceful villages like Kalpa, Sangla, Chitkul, and Sarahan.
If you are not one of those who visit places to tick them off from bucket lists, then you can refer my article on Kinnaur Valley – Most Common Itinerary for a detailed plan. I have highlighted the high-level day by day trip plan from Kinnaur below as well.
- Day 1 | Delhi – Shimla / Narkanda
- Day 2 | Shimla / Narkanda – Sarahan
- Day 3 | Sarahan – Tapri – Reckong Peo – Kalpa
- Day 4 | Rest day at Kalpa
- Day 5 | Kalpa – Karcham – Sangla / Rakcham (Baspa Valley)
- Day 6 | Sangla / Rakcham – Chitkul / Sangla / Rakcham
- Day 7 | Chitkul / Sangla / Rakcham – Rampur – Daranghati / Narkanda / Chail
- Day 8 | Daranghati / Narkanda / Chail – Delhi
Accommodation Options at Kinnaur Valley
There are many accommodation options available at Reckong Peo, Kalpa, as well as Sangla Valley and Chitkul. Many of them are good enough to cater to the varied needs of budgets among people. There are economic guest houses or homestays, which are cheap enough to keep your money saved. But, there are other luxury properties as well which provide the comfort and facilities if you are looking forward to them.
Apart from private accommodation options, you can go ahead and vouch for many PWD Rest Houses in Kinnaur Valley, which are though comfortable and economical but may not suit the needs of every family may be. Also, you require bookings for them, and sometimes, in case of some VIP visit, they may try to push you though not in rights. So, 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
For more details on good hotels to stay in Kinnaur Valley OR good accommodation options to stay in Kinnaur Valley, you can refer the article: Good Hotels or Accommodation options in Spiti Valley & Kinnaur Valley
Where to eat in Kinnaur
Most of the time you will be eating out in Hotels or Camps or Guest Houses or Homestays you will be staying in Kinnaur. However, there are dhabhas or eating joints on the way to Kalpa or Sangla from Shimla, which you can use for in-between meals. Do not forget that famous “Last Indian Dhabha” in Chitkul.
You should always carry your own water bottle and refill it as many times as you need water. It will not only keep you hydrated always, but you will also help in saving the Himalayas from plastic garbage. Remember, every tiny step counts and your step in this direction can help save the Himalayas too !! 🙂 🙂
Places to visit in Kinnaur Valley
Once you enter the gate of Kinnaur Valley, the daunting mountains welcome you, and a kind of adventure begins. The drop around the roads gets higher and higher. The roads start to deteriorate and soon becomes a dirt track. Every tourist attraction places in Kinnaur is much closer to nature than being commercialized towns of lower Himachal.
You can plan a trip to Kinnaur Valley where you can try and explore the following places in or around Reckong Peo.
About 120 odd KMs before the Indo-Tibet border, lies one of the most beautiful and romantic valleys in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, Sangla Valley or otherwise also known as Baspa Valley which houses a major village by the name Sangla.
Sangla is about 16 km diversion towards right from Karcham, which is at Hindustan Tibet Highway going towards Kaza from Shimla Sangla Valley is surrounded by thick forest slopes and offers lovely views of the high mountains surrounding it. Recently, various beautiful meadows in this valley (such as Rakcham meadow) have become very popular among shooting various film scenes and advertisements too.
You can read our detailed travel guide of Sangla Valley.
About 28 km away from Sangla Valley at an altitude of 3450 Mtrs and on the banks of Baspa river there lies the last inhabited place in India before the Indo-Tibet border named Chitkul. The magical beauty which this village offers is unmatched and incomparable. Chitkul remains closed in winters and is extremely famous for its potatoes in the whole world which are extremely costly as well.
You can read our detailed travel guide of Chitkul Village.
About 2-3 km away from Sangla Valley, there is a famous 1000-year-old Kamru Fort considered to be one of the oldest forts in Himachal Pradesh. Do check out when you are in Sangla Valley.
Misc. Trails & Meadows around Sangla
There are loads of trails in these apple orchards that can be hiked around while you stay in Sangla Valley. There are some lovely meadows too (one near Rakcham village as I remember) as well which can be visited or spent the time to bask in the lap of pristine mother nature.
You can also for an easy 3-4 Hrs hike to the Glacier point if you are interested in some snow play. Batseri village to Sangla Village walk of about 12 km through dense Cedar forests is also quite famous among people who love being midst nature and actually feel it.
There is a Trout Fishery Farm on the other side of Baspa River near Sangla Village too which is nice to visit and can be covered in this walk itself. What better having a trout for yourself and later barbecue it over a campfire in the evening 🙂 !!
Kalpa is one of the best places to see sunset and sunrise in the Himalayas over the Kinner Kailash range. Kalpa is about 8 KMs from Reckong Peo, district headquarters of Kinnaur Valley, which in turn is about 7 KMs diversion from a place called Powari on Hindustan Tibet Highway.
The place is just majestic and the views of Kinner Kailash range from almost any of the hotel at Kalpa would make your jaws drop at any day. I never thought that it would be that beautiful what I witnessed after reaching this lovely place. We were fortunate to witness such fantastic weather at such an awesomely beautiful location in Kinnaur Valley.
You can read our detailed travel guide of Kalpa Village.
It is about 6-7 KMs from Kalpa and is known for its traditional lifestyle of Himachal surrounded by apple orchards. Very nice place to have a short hike or walk across the village from Kalpa. You will almost feel you are in a time machine and somewhere in the past if you spend some time here in this village.
The villagers have a great knowledge of the place, its flora, and fauna and you can get quite a decent knowledge in the village from them in case you are interested to know about Kinnaur Valley and this region
Just 3 km from Recong Peo, this village has a Chandika Devi temple which has an unusual architectural style and fine sculpture set amidst a picturesque mountains backdrop.
In case you need any medical assistance in Kinnaur, there is a one district hospital at Reckong Peo, being the headquarters of Kinnaur Valley. There is a local hospital at Sangla village, too, being the biggest village in Baspa Valley. The next help for anything major will be available in Shimla.
Most of the mobile phone service connections work in Reckong Peo, Kalpa, as well as Sangla Valley, with best being Airtel. However, as you go ahead towards upper remote parts of Kinnaur like Nako, Puh, Chitkul, etc. then the best option will be to carry an MTNL/BSNL prepaid/postpaid connection. It has maximum coverage in Himachal Pradesh. Vodafone did have issues with some connectivity at times. Lower Kinnaur Valley does not have any major phone connectivity issues.
About 10 km from Kalpa, you can find the nearest petrol pump at Reckong Peo. There was one more fuel pump at Powari, which is on Hindustan – Tibet Highway when you move from Reckong Peo back towards Shimla, which is about 30 km from Sangla Valley.
I am not sure if it is still functional though on my recent trip to Spiti Valley in the first week of May 2013, the Powari fuel pump was not functional. There has been one fuel pump which is fairly new that I saw at Tapri, and it is true as of 2020 as well.
The best thing is to top up your petrol or fuel tank at Narkanda which is fair in terms of quality as well OR the last petrol pump in Rampur that comes on the right side while going from the Shimla side.
ATMs near Kinnaur Valley
There is an ATM as far as I know in Sangla Valley. Otherwise, you will find one for sure at Reckong Peo about 8 km away from Kalpa and 38 km away from Sangla. However, whenever I travel to such remote villages of the Himalayas, you must carry enough cash with you for an emergency without relying on credit or debit cards.
Kinnaur Valley is one of such secluded and untouched places in Himachal Pradesh where people must go over and enjoy raw nature in its purest form. It is a perfect place for a family vacation with lovely views all around and yes, a part of the adventure too with rough roads. It is one of those places where the journey is itself a destination. You might opt for your honeymoon destination in Himachal as well.
If you have been to Kinnaur Valley, kindly share your thoughts and other information you might feel will be worth sharing with other fellow travelers and help them travel better.
Finally, in case, If you know your friends or family are planning a road trip to Kinnaur, then do share this article with them to help them make a memorable trip as well.