Lahaul used to be clubbed with the Spiti Valley when travel plans were made. This might still make a lot of sense, today. But, with the construction and opening of Atal Tunnel, Lahaul has become very accessible and an extension of Manali trip for many! Even if folks don’t have many days on hand – heading to the other side of the tunnel is now a legit activity.
But, if you have been mesmerized by Lahaul on your short visit – I am sure you will fall in love when you explore the place extensively! So, if you are looking for a detailed and a common itinerary for Lahaul Valley trip, then look no further, this article deep dives into all the required details for you.
Lahaul Valley encompasses many smaller valley and has some of the most stunning views of glaciers, rivers, monasteries, deep valleys and high peaks. Of course, Lahaul forms one half of the Lahaul-Spiti district. But, Lahaul is separated from its sister Spiti by the gigantic Kunzum Pass.
Best Season to Visit
Even though summer months are amazing and the weather is very cool, winters are equally mesmerizing. Some areas are known to received 10 ft. of snow. Before this season, Lahaul was cut off from the world, but the mighty Atal Tunnel has made it possible to enjoy the beauty of the region in the winter months. In the coming seasons, you will be able to ski in Lahaul as well.
How to Reach Lahaul Valley
Lying only 33 KMs from Manali on the Manali-Leh Highway – reaching Lahaul has never been easier. The valley starts from the northern end of the Atal Tunnel, which is essentially a bridge between Manali and Lahaul. Lahaul District extends to Sarchu on the Manali- Leh highway (almost halfway to Leh!)
The nearest Airport is the Kullu (Bhuntar) Airport, which lies about 51 KMs from Manali. Cabs and buses are available here for heading to Lahaul Valley
The nearest railway station is Joginder Nagar, situated at a 4-hour drive from Manali. Buses and cabs are available at the railhead. However, in terms of comfort – both for the airport and railway – Chandigarh is a better destination as it enjoys higher connectivity with the rest of India
The best way to reach Lahaul is by road. The best part about Lahaul village is that most places (except the hikes, of course) are motorable. So, having your own vehicle will give you a lot of freedom to travel and explore. In terms of reaching the valley – you’ll travel to Manali and from there, head towards the Atal Tunnel. Once you cross the tunnel, you’re in the Lahaul valley – ready to start your journey!
One thing to keep in mind is that you can, should, and must explore the smaller villages and settlements to truly get a pulse of the Lahauli life. If accommodation seems like a concern, remember to check with the locals for guidance, or plan on returning to a major village (Jispa, Keylong, Udaipur) for the night! Camping is also a very legit option, which I will discuss in detail below.
Places to Visit in Lahaul Valley
Enjoying the new and recent connectivity, Lahaul is a new tourist hotspot these days. Some key places worth visiting are as follows, however, I also have a post on some of the more offbeat locations you might want to check out!
Essentially, Lahaul valley is sub-divided into the following 4 valleys –
1. Tinan Valley
Stretching from Khoksar up to Tandi, Tinan Valley is your introduction to Lahaul. There is a lot to do here, and each village offers something unique for you to explore. Villages of Teling, Jagdjang and Shurthang can easily be visited from Sissu. Places of interest here include –
The waterfall is visible from all parts of Sissu and makes for a great accompaniment on your drive. I was happy to sit at a dhaba for my morning breakfast, enroute Leh, and having the serene view as my backdrop! However, if you have a 4X4 and are willing to hike for an hour – you can comfortable reach visibly close to the waterfall and make a day out of it. To reach the waterfall – take the diversion from the nursery and keep heading straight up. Locals will be happy to guide you if you’re confused/lost.
Another important and fun hike from Sissu is heading to the Labrang Gompa, only 3 KMs from the village. The trail up to the Jagdhang village is cemented and meets a motorable road as well. The views will keep you mesmerized and the fresh air will make you feel alive. The freedom of climbing a mountain is such a privilege.
Gephan Lake and Temple
Heading to Gephan Lake will take some energy and the hike is a bit extensive. Even though the route is not well known – the locals do help guide you. Since the trail is not very famous/defined – I urge you to take a guide with you for this as it is easy to get lost in the hills.
In terms of the temple –the Gephan temple is one of the most revered temples of the valley and it is after this Raja that the peak is named.
Located around 18 KMs from Keylong, Gondhla can easily be spotted from the Manali-Leh highway. The road is motorable and it is a fun excursion to take.
3. Gahar Valley
Right when you enter Keylong, you’re now part of the Gahar Valley. The Lady of Keylong peak will be your co-traveler when you’re in this village. The district headquarters, you’re about 110 KMs from Manali at this point. This is the beginning of your love affairs with exploring Gompas. Some of the more famous ones include-
Guru Ghantal Gompa
The oldest Gompa of Lahaul, Guru Ghantal is truly valued! Only reachable on foot through a steep hike, Guru Ghantal trek starts from Tupchiling Gompa near the Tandi bridge. The views from the top are especially scenic and the serenity of the place will knock your socks off!
Founded by Zanskar’s Lama – Deva Gyatsho, Shashur Gompa is one of the biggest Gompas of the region. Lying about 5 KMs from Keylong – this place is well worth the visit. If you have your own car – drive to the Gompa. Alternatively, you can book a cab from Keylong as well, or even hike up to the top to enjoy the religious history and the stunning views of the valley
Lying opposite to the Shashur Gompa – Kardang is actually quite ways away from Keylong. For the route, you’ll need to travel to Tandi – Kardang Village and finally the Gompa, taking about 18 KMs in total. If you plan on hiking, as always, take the advice of the locals for route!
Even though there’s lots of historic and religious places to cover in this valley, I think the scenic part of Jispa MUST be appreciated. Though this village is quite famous for those heading to Leh – this village is not just a pit stop by any means. The immense beauty and sheer delight of nature all around you will make you stop in your track! Worthy place for your overnight stay and to discover the wonders of the valley
3. Tod Valley
Beginning from Darcha and leading you right up to Sarchu, the very end of Himachal Pradesh’s border, the valley also includes the Shingo La pass. On a personal note, Tod (todh) valley is one of my favorite places on earth and some of my happiest memories of travel are from here. So, I am a bit biased when it comes to the wonders of this super pretty place! Some of the most scenic points lie on this part of Lahaul Valley, including
Ah, Baralacha-la. Those who’ve been on the Manali Leh Highway know of the innate charm of this high pass (16043 Ft). Situated about 80 Kms from Keylong, Baralacha-la is other worldly in its beauty. The darkness of the mountain almost resembling coal-black, sprinkled with the purity and whiteness of snow – it is indescribable and must be experienced to be understood. The pass, given its height, is perpetually covered in snow. If you’re lucky, like me, you might experience snowfall here (even in the month of June! – Blessed!)
As you’re approaching Baralacha-la, you’ll come across this magical lake of Suraj Tal. Stunning drive takes you right along the lake and it is a worthy place to go explore through a little hike. The drive is a bit moody and at one point it might even feel like there’s no road ahead – because of the steep turn awaiting you. The lake remains frozen for many months. I would advise you to hire a guide if you’re trekking there, as the route is not well defined!
So, when you’re travelling towards Baralacha-La, before you reach the famous Zing-Zing Bar (must have tomato soup here!) – Deepak tal lies right along the road side. It is a very small lake, but any water body here seems so magical. We stopped and chilled here for about half an hour – though there’s not much to do (except be mesmerized by the beauty!)
Also known as Shingo La, Shinku la is a motorable pass and a gateway to Zanskar. With the updation of the road, this is now a shorter route to get into Zanskar. However, it should be noted that you’ll need Inner Line Permit for Zanskar. Also, this route is a huge blessing to cutting short your way to Zanskar! Do remember, the road, however, is exceptionally tricky. If you’re not an expert hill driver, it is better to take the longer route. A 4X4 is a must.4.
4. Pattan Valley
The last valley to form a part of the Lahaul Valley is the Pattan Valley. This covers the region from Tandi to Udaipur. One of the least expired region of Lahaul – Pattan is undeniably the prettiest!
Udaipur of Lahaul is very fertile and low-lying. Once you enter this massive village, you’ll be greeted by apple orchards abound. Udaipur is the gateway to Pangi Valley in Chamba district and lies approximately 55 KMs from Keylong.
Mrikula Devi Mata Temple
Udaipur offers a lot in terms of exploration. Mrikula Devi Mata temple is one of the most ancient temples of the region and is famous for intricate wood work and carvings. Many scenes from Mahabharata and Ramayana are engraved in the walls. Once you visit this temple, you can easily spend hours making sense of all the depictions!
Another ancient temple of Pattan valley, Triloknath is highly revered by both Hindus and Buddhists. I love this region of the hills particularly because of such beautiful amalgamation of religions and cultures to form such a symbiotic society. What a beautiful thing to experience! Located at an elevation of 2700 meters., the temple also has some stunning bird eye view of the entire valley!
A sub-valley and part of the Pattan valley, Miyar offers the best of both Himachal and Zanskar. Here, you’ll feel like you’re simultaneously in Kinnaur and right at the end of the valley it resembles Zanskar. Not as famous as its counterparts, Miyar has a firm hold in the off-beat traveler and hiking crowd. . The valley has many little settlements and villages, including – Tingrit, Urgos, Shukto, and Khanjar. Shukto is the last motorable village.
Where to stay?
The valley has quite a few hotels, guesthouses, homestays and camping sites. Particularly, the settlements of Keylong, Jispa and Sissu are popular places to have a stopover. However, many smaller villages have sufficient homestays. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask the local community for help and guidance.
However, I must encourage you to either homestay or camp in nature to get the best of this world!
Where to eat?
I am sure you know that you’ll be travelling offbeat. Nothing close to luxury or fine dining is available in this wonderful piece of heaven. Momos, Thukpa, and basic Indian meals of Daal/Vegetable and roti will be available. Of course, the love affair of Maggi and chai in the hills continues in this region as well, so you’re pretty sorted food wise.
However, do stopover in Keylong and try some lip-smacking local food!
Is an Inner Line Permit required for Lahaul?
No, there is no need to obtain permit to visit Lahaul Valley via Atal Tunnel. However, if you’re visiting Rohtang Pass Highway, you’ll need a permit for entering, as per the orders of the National Green Tribunal, to limit the vehicles headed to the pass. Also, in future there might be a green tax imposed on vehicles entering Lahaul. However, this is still under consideration.
What are the ideal places to stay in Lahaul?
Keylong, Jispa, Sissu and Udaipur
Will there be an impact of the sudden tourism surge?
Absolutely, it is imperative to ensure that Lahaul valley doesn’t become the next Rohtang pass. In the sense that the pass faced a lot of challenges and pollution as well as waste thrown around. As tourists it is our innate responsibility to ensure that the region remains pristine and generations of travelers that follow us can enjoy the beauty like we can. We must ensure that we follow a strict regimen of sustainable tourism and not trash the place after we are done enjoying it. The valley is pretty new at handling such huge amounts of tourists – be kind to the people and nature!
Is there phone connectivity in Lahaul Valley?
BSNL and Airtel enjoy intermittent connectivity. However, in very far flung places, even that won’t work. You will have access to Wi-Fi in Keylong Hotels
The most scenic and beautiful place to recently crop up on the radar of many travelers, Lahaul is awaiting your visit. Please ensure you keep the place pristine and enjoy its beauty as it! I highly recommend visiting Lahaul, it forms part of some of my happiest trips. The isolation and serenity of this valley is pretty unmatched. I hope I was able to give you a lot of detail on the wonder that is Lahaul. Next post will be about the most common itinerary for Lahaul to help you plan. In the meanwhile, if you have any questions, or if I missed out on any key details – don’t hesitate to reach out! Cheers!