Situated high up in the trans-Himalayan territory, Spiti Valley, meaning “the middle land,” is a place to travel at least once in a lifetime or maybe for a person like me now and then in a lifetime. You can travel to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur – Shimla route, or you can take the route to Spiti from Manali side.
In this article, I will share with you the complete travel guide of traveling to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur – Spiti route. I will talk about the route, the best time to travel, the general itinerary of the Spiti Valley road trip as well as all other details that you always wanted to know for traveling to Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Spiti Valley via Kinnaur – Shimla | A Complete Guide
Similar to Leh Ladakh, I am quite fond of traveling to Spiti Valley as well. With Leh Ladakh and Spiti Valley, it is not only the terrain and the landscape which are 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 spellbound by its charismatic natural beauty. The journey on the road to Spiti Valley is not far behind in decorating the entire Spiti road trip with a more beautiful landscape and the thrill of adventure.
The road to Spiti Valley, commonly known as Hindustan Tibet Highway, is a destination in itself. This road that runs to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur – Shimla is 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 the road to Spiti Valley or Hindustan Tibet Highway.
How many days does it take to reach Spiti Valley from Kinnaur side?
In order to visit this picturesque valley of the trans–Himalayan region, you can take a long three-day journey over NH05 running through Shimla – Kinnaur Valley. You can also tread along the path of Manali and then take Manali – Rohtang Pass – Kunzum Pass – Kaza (Spiti Valley) route as well. Hence, it will take you three days to reach Spiti Valley via Kinnaur and two days to reach Spiti from Manali side.
As a practice and to enjoy the route entirely, it is always better to do the complete circuit for the first time. Then, you can keep coming back to Spiti trips from one or the other route and explore more and more places in Spiti Valley which is quite difficult to explore or cover in just one road trip to Spiti.
Is there a problem if I travel to Spiti from the shorter route of Manali?
Sometimes, people traveling or going directly to Spiti Valley or Kaza / Losar from Manali suffers from acute mountain sickness due to the sudden change of altitude with which the body is adapted as Kaza is about 3600 Mtrs high in altitude. However, the route to Spiti Valley from Kinnaur Valley 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 a relaxed manner.
However, when traveling over one of the most adventurous roads of the world that are Hindustan – Tibet Highway, we all must know about it. Its terrain, the route, and the 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 the road to Spiti Valley can easily turn into a nightmare if planned incorrectly and can get you in trouble, stranded in the middle of nowhere. In this article of the series, “Comprehensive Travel Guide to Spiti Valley,” I will try to put down all my knowledge for traveling to this road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur.
Do not forget to check the five reasons to travel to Spiti Valley from Shimla side.
Best Time to Visit Spiti Valley via Kinnaur – Shimla
The road to Spiti Valley via Shimla – Kinnaur remains open all around the year barring days of inclement weather and heavy snowfall in Kinnaur & Spiti. However, if you want to travel to Spiti and do the full circuit of exiting Kaza via Manali side, you will have to travel in the months of June to September – October.
September, in general, is one of the best times to visit Spiti Valley from Kinnaur – Shimla side because roads are pretty much dry and landslides of monsoon settle in Kinnaur Valley.
The winter months from December to March may have intermittent road closures as well due to heavy snowfall on the route. April – May, and October – November is when you will find that the roads to Spiti open from Kinnaur side but closed from Manali side.
In order to get into the details of month by month guide on traveling to Spiti Valley and understanding what is the best time to visit Spiti via Kinnaur, please check my article on Best Season to Travel on Road to Spiti Valley
Modes of Travel on Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur
When planning a road trip to Spiti Valley, you have many options. You can plan to self-ride by bike, or you can travel in your car. Unlike Leh Ladakh, there is no restriction of outside commercial vehicles, as well. So, you can self drive your car or rental cars as well. If you are making a budget trip to Spiti Valley, then public transport is also an option to travel to Spiti 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 car or own bike, and some also prefer to self-drive or self-ride to Spiti Valley by renting a bike or car. In any case, hired car/bike or personal car/bike, the idea is to live the passion of driving or riding through one of the toughest and adventurous terrains accessible not only in India but the world, i.e., Hindustan – Tibet Highway.
Can I take a rented bike or rented a self-drive car to Spiti Valley?
Unlike Leh Ladakh, where outside rented taxis and rented bikes are not allowed for local sightseeing, in Spiti Valley, you can take your own or rented, car, or bike to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur or Manali. However, one must be careful while driving or riding through slushy roads, snow, and water crossing or nallas that come on the route to Spiti. Also, it is always handy to learn little things maintenance tasks of your vehicle like fixing a puncture before the start of this arduous road journey to Spiti Valley over Hindustan – Tibet Highway.
What is the best car for Spiti Valley road trip?
Well, there is nothing as such the best car for Spiti Valley road trip. It all depends upon the time you are traveling and your driving skills to travel on such rough roads in the Himalayas. Still, regarding the best-suited cars for the Spiti road trip, an SUV/MUV car with high ground clearance is good to have, and of course, a 4WD SUV will help further in deep water crossings.
However, 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 drive your sedan or hatchback to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur, then you must drive with extra care and caution, especially in Kinnaur Valley and the road from Kinnaur to Tabo.
Tips for a bike ride or self-drive trip to Spiti
Given below are some of the important tips for a road trip to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur – Shimla route.
- 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 the 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. It will help you get out of the stuck position and use a wooden plank to get out of it.
- It is always handy to ask your fellow co-travelers to get out of the car and push the vehicle from behind, in case, the car is struggling to pass through the slush or water crossing stretch.
- DO NOT forget to help other fellow travelers in need on the route.
Essential things to carry for a self-drive to Spiti
Basic toolkit, screwdriver 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, car inverter, M-seal to prevent leakage, etc. were among the few things which I carry along on my trip to Ladakh or Spiti Valley.
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.
Do not forget to check a 40 MUST-HAVE list of things to pack for a self-drive trip to Spiti Valley.
Hiring a Private Taxi | Taxi Number or Private Number
You can also hire a taxi from Shimla or Chandigarh or Delhi to travel on the road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur Valley. It is always better to hire Xylo or Scorpio, and mostly, the charges range from 3000 to 3500 per day from Shimla depending upon the season of travel, the number of days you will travel, and your bargaining skills. But, if you’re traveling in a group, this might not be that expensive of a proposition.
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 times, drivers from Shimla are good but sometimes they are majorly bogged onto local routes in Himachal Pradesh which are in no comparison to the roads of Trans-Himalayas. So, confirm twice before fixing a deal. Hence, it is best to travel to Shimla and rent a taxi from a known driver who has been to Spiti Valley routes.
You can always get connected with local taxi drivers in this list of taxi drivers in Kinnaur and Spiti Valley.
Further, self-drive cars available in Delhi and Chandigarh are also a great way to travel to Spiti Valley from Delhi. These self-drive cars can easily be booked from your starting location point and sometimes proves less expensive than hiring the taxis.
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 as well. You can always reach Shimla from Delhi or Chandigarh by Volvo buses run by both HRTC and HPTDC departments of Himachal Pradesh.
I do not have much idea about the fare, as soon as I get that, I will update it in this section, but regarding the 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. For 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.
Check my article on how to plan a budget trip to Spiti Valley via Public Transport?
How to reach Spiti from Kinnaur – Shimla side?
The journey over Shimla to Kinnaur Valley and further to upper Kinnaur and Spiti is a pretty long one. Based on my experience, you can opt to plan a journey on the road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur or Hindustan – Tibet Highway in one of the following ways –
Three Day Trip on Hindustan – Tibet Highway
It is always better to travel the road to Spiti Valley over Hindustan – Tibet Highway in 3 days. Traveling with sufficient time on hand not only eases out the arduous road trip a bit but also helps your body is well acclimatized to the high altitude of Spiti Valley because you ascend gradually within these three days in terms of altitude. The general breakup of night stays to reach Spiti via Kinnaur is like below:
- Day 1: Delhi – Narkanda
- Day 2: Narkanda – Reckong Peo or Kalpa or Sangla
- Day 3: Reckong Peo or Kalpa or Sangla – Nako – Tabo (Spiti)
On Day 1, you can start easily from Delhi and reach Narkanda by evening where you can relax for the rest of the evening and take overnight rest. After the opening of Panchkula to Parwanoo Toll road, also called Himalayan Expressway, it is quite an easy drive except for jams around Shimla town.
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 Bhawanagar then you will start to experience the bad roads throughout Kinnaur Valley. You can plan to stay at Kalpa which is a bit off from the main highway ahead of Reckong Peo but has many comfortable options of stay available. Or else, you can either plan to stay at Sangla Valley too but it will increase the distance to Tabo 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, on the 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 by AMS and spend at least three nights at a lower altitude before venturing to the high altitude of Kaza. Another advantage of staying at Tabo is that you can cover Pin Valley or Dhankar Monastery on the next day (Day 4) while traveling from Tabo to Kaza.
Two Day Journey from Delhi to Kinnaur to Kaza
In case you are short on days and still want to travel the road to Spiti Valley over Hindustan – Tibet Highway, but in two 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
OR, you can also plan like below
- Day 1: Delhi – Rampur / Tapri
- Day 2: Rampur / Tapri – Nako – Chango – 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, which is Day 1 to reach either Peo OR Ribba. Please keep in mind that you need to suffer fatigue, you should be accustomed to such long drives in the mountains, and ready to toil for about 15+ Hrs on the road.
You will reach Reckong 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.
Another way is to try to reach Rampur or whatever ahead possible. Stay there and again next morning leave early to reach Tabo by nightfall.
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.
Itinerary for Spiti Trip from Shimla – Kinnaur Side
In the above section, you learned about how to reach Spiti from Shimla – Kinnaur side. However, it does not talk about a detailed day by day plan to plan such a trip. I will recommend that if you are not making a circuit trip, then you can follow my itinerary of a trip to Spiti from Shimla – Kinnaur only.
Sightseeing on Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur
Traveling over this beautiful yet most adventurous road to Spiti Valley along Hindustan – Tibet Highway is sightseeing in itself. However, while traversing over it, there are some fabulous places which you can visit alongside this highway to heaven and name a 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 a 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 because these are link roads, they will take more time while reaching your destination as compared to a quite wider national highway. But, these new routes can be a retreat from the busy National highway in his words ;).
Anyways, he suggests, you can travel like:
- 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 three km before Spillo can also be followed to get a different feel on this road trip to Spiti via Kinnaur.
List of Accommodation or Stay Options
Among three of the topmost adventurous roads of India, Hindustan – Tibet Highway or the road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur, is much better than its competitor Manali – Leh Highway in terms of accommodation options it offers.
You can find a decent place to stay within 70 odd km at max on this route from Shimla to Kaza. At some places like beyond Jeori, while going from Shimla, the accommodation options could be a minimal and basic guesthouse or homestay type, including HP PWD Guest Houses widely spread across this tribal belt.
On the other hand, the places like Shimla, Narkanda, Rampur, Reckong Peo, Sangla, Kalpa, etc. does offer a varied amount of accommodation options which may suit the budget for different pockets. So, it always better to break the journey at Shimla/Narkanda, then in Kinnaur at Kalpa, Peo or Sangla Valley.
You can check this preferred list of places to stay on Kinnaur and Spiti Valley road trip.
HP PWD Rest Houses – Decent Option of Stay
Apart from private accommodation options, you can also go ahead and vouch for many PWD Rest Houses along the entire road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur – Shimla. The PWD guest houses are comfortable and economical but may not suit the needs of every family due to cleanliness and food offered. 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 and your own food, I will recommend them to save money!! You can always refer my article on How to Book HP PWD Rest Houses or FRHs
Please keep in mind that Kalpa and Sangla – Chitkul 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. Hence, keep in mind when doing hotels bookings on your road trip to Spiti Valley from Kinnaur side.
Acclimatization & its importance on Road to Kaza from Kinnaur
Like Manali – Leh Highway, the journey on the road to Spiti Valley over Hindustan – Tibet Highway is quite treacherous, in fact, more than it. However, this route goes through a gradual increase in altitude, thereby helping your body to get acclimatized properly for the high altitude of Spiti Valley.
That is why traveling to Spiti from Hindustan – Tibet Highway is always preferred for a road trip to Spiti Valley as compared to traveling 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, thereby decreasing the chances of being hit by AMS.
In the return leg, you can come back to Delhi from Spiti via Kaza – Kunzum Pass – Manali route and complete the entire Spiti circuit. Coming back via the Manali side 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 minimize the effects of high altitude sickness further. Here are some tips which will help to acclimatize the body faster in the first few days of the trip:
- Try to reach Spiti Valley or perhaps Kaza with at least three-night stays over Hindustan – Tibet Highway viz. Narkanda, Kalpa, Tabo and then finally Kaza on the fourth night.
- Keep your body properly hydrated.
- Try and avoid sleeping at high altitudes earlier in the trip.
- Better limit or avoid overexertion
- 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 an upright position, if possible.
- Carry preventive medicines for AMS after consulting your doctor.
- 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 route to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur
You will be able to find fuel pumps only at Shimla, Theog, Narkanda, Rampur, Jeori, Tapri, Reckong Peo and Kaza. It is essential not to miss to refuel at Kaza as well as may be Reckong Peo or Tapri 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, that was not functional. However, there is a 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 the Narkanda Fuel pump.
I only use Narkanda, last fuel pump at Rampur (while going from Shimla) and Kaza to refuel petrol in my car.
As per my knowledge, there are ATMs available only at Shimla, Reckong Peo, and Rampur. There is an ATM at Kaza as well now but its working condition may be a question at times.
Hence, it is advised that you carry enough cash from home or Shimla, Reckong Peo, and Rampur. I guess you should carry enough cash with you on any trans-Himalayan trips because ATMs at these limited places can run out of money or become un-operational at any day or time.
Attractions in Spiti Road Trip from Shimla
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.
The approximate distances along with altitude between these places are shown depicted in the chart below. This will help you judge over the acclimatization schedule too.
Hindustan – Tibet Road Altitude & Distance Graph
Road to Spiti Valley from Shimla Altitude & Distance Graph
You may also check this less than 3-minute video on DevilOnWheels YouTube Channel on these five reasons to take Shimla to Kaza route instead of Manali to Kaza. If you like my video, please do not forget to SUBSCRIBE to the YouTube channel.
Facilities or Amenities on Hindustan – Tibet Highway
Here is a summary of important facilities or amenities that comes along as you make a Spiti Valley road trip from the Shimla – Kinnaur route.
|Accommodations / Stay Options||Regarding hotels and guest houses, there are lots of options between Shimla and Jeori, then Shontong, Sangla, Reckong Peo, Kalpa, Puh, Nako, Chango, Tabo, Kaza, Dhangkar, Pin Valley, Losar.|
Even on smaller villages in between along the whole route, there are lots of HPPWD Rest Houses, FRH Rest Houses, and a few IPH Rest Houses. Refer accommodation section for complete lists.
|Food / Beverages||Lots of options all the way up to Powari, then a few options at every other small village/hamlet 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|
|Mobile Connectivity||Most of the connections work throughout the route but once you cross Powari, the other connections start dying and eventually from Ribba – Akpa belt only BSNL works and that too in between only.|
Of course, BSNL has more coverage and better connectivity within this range than any other operator. Other operators like Airtel, Vodafone, Aircel, etc. works in up to Powari – Ribba – Akpa but with poor connectivity.
Even BSNL loses connectivity too in between, at places from Akpa – Jangi – Nako – Tabo – Kaza route.
SMS does work fine for both BSNL.
Packet data works with BSNL that too with EDGE only. It is very slow and terrible.
Beyond Kaza, only limited connectivity and at Losar, if the light/electricity is coming then its tower gets the supply and your mobile comes alive.
You should refer my tips on mobile connectivity in Spiti Valley.
|Fixed Phones||Almost all the towns/villages en-route Spiti Valley have fixed landline telephone connectivity and I wonder if there is any town that 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 that lacks it, apart from very tiny hamlets.|
|Medical Facilities||The 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, Kaza (But always carry enough cash)|
|Mechanic / Puncture Shops||From Shimla to Jeori, you will find many mechanic shops with almost every village passing by. Then, you will find at Tapri, Reckong Peo, near Akpa, Spillo, Puh.|
Do not miss the mechanic shop at Puh for air or puncture or some minor repairs as nothing will be there up to Kaza almost.
Not sure about Tabo, but you will find one big mechanic shop at Kaza, just ahead of Sakya Tangyud monastery.
|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 viewpoints, suggestions or inputs as comments below and help other fellow travelers to plan their journey on one of the treacherous BUT beautiful highways of the world that is Hindustan – Tibet Highway. In the next article, I am going to talk about traveling to Spiti Valley from Manali side.
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