There are numerous places all over Himachal that are blessed with mesmerizing natural beauty. Some of these places are quite famous like Shimla and Manali; but then there are a few others that are not so well known , but no less in beauty still. In fact considering the kind of crowd that Shimla and Manali receive, visiting some of these unknown and offbeat destinations can prove to be a much better trip. One such place that I recently went on a trip to and would like to talk about in this article is Kalpa; a small town located in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh.
The name Kalpa would probably be known only to people who have traveled around a lot in the hills; or who have been on the Spiti circuit at least once. Kalpa and the nearby town of Reckong Peo is mostly used as the center point of the journey from Shimla to Kaza. It is not completely an unknown destination because tourism is a major part of the livelihood of the people around here. You will definitely find tourists here during summer and the place is also very well connected. It however is still not known to many people and it never gets crowded around here. So if you were planning a trip in near future; wanted to travel to a less crowded place that offers peace and tranquility as well as stunning vistas all around; then Kalpa could prove to be an ideal destination.
There are two way that you can get to Kalpa. You can either reach here from Shimla or take the longer route via Manali. Which of these will be the best route; what to see in Kalpa; and how you can plan your journey is what I will be providing details on in this post; along with some other details like accommodation and mobile network etc. If, after reading the article, you have any other questions then you may ask those in comments towards the bottom of this page.
I have been to Kalpa more than once but it was always part of my Spiti trip really. The first time I reached here was several years ago and since then, I have always made sure that I stay at Kalpa for at least one day whenever I traveled towards Kinnaur valley. The best thing I like about this tiny hamlet its location. From the Shimla Kaza highway, you climb up approximately 16 kilometers on a steep and narrow road; getting a sharp incline in altitude. When you finally make it to Kalpa, you are greeted with a majestic view of imposing Kinner Kailash peaks; also known as Kinnaur Kailash peaks.
It is rare that you would have witnessed a sight like this unless you have been to a lot of hill stations. It is a view that makes the entire journey to Kalpa totally worth it and will remain with you for months to come. Sitting in the balcony of your hotel, doing nothing and sipping down some hot tea, while staring at the peaks in front, is a perfect example of some time away from our regular city lives. While planning a trip to Kalpa, you can either just visit Kalpa if you were short on time; or incorporate with a trip covering the entire Kinnaur valley; or keep Kalpa a part of your journey on Spiti circuit.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Chitkul?
How to reach Kalpa
The first question that comes to mind is on how to reach Kalpa. As I mentioned previously in the article, Kalpa is very well connected by road and you can actually get here for all 12 months of the year. The nearest major town is Shimla, located about 220 kilometers that can be covered in 7-8 hours depending upon your speed. From Shimla, you will climb uphill all the way till Narkanda and then you will drive down to the banks of Sutlej River. You will then continue towards Reckong Peo while crossing Rampur, Jeori and Powari on the way. A few kilometers after Powari, a road climbing up on your left is the one that you will need to take. You will first reach Reckong Peo and then finally to Kalpa.
Airport Near Kalpa
The nearest airport to Kalpa is the Shimla airport located in Jubbarhatti. After Shimla, the next nearest airport is the Bhuntar airport between Chandigarh and Manali. These are however small airports and flights to both these places are limited. The nearest major airport is at Chandigarh which is connected with several flights from all over the country.
Train Station Near Kalpa
The nearest train station also is at Shimla but like the airfield, this train station also is a small one; connected to Kalka by the famous Kala – Shimla toy train. The nearest major railway station is at Chandigarh; trains to which are available from all major cities in the country.
Kalpa By Road
If you were driving on your own, then you can follow the route that I mentioned above via Shimla, Rampur, Jeori and Powari. If you however were traveling by public transport then you will first have to reach Shimla. By Air or train, you can first reach Chandigarh and then catch a daily Bus to Shimla from Chandigarh bus stand. From Shimla, there is a daily bus that starts early in the morning and reaches Reckong Peo by later afternoon.
If you missed the bus, then you can also catch a shared cab that ply on this route in ample amounts. Once you reach Reckong Peo, finding a mode of transport to Kalpa in form of another shared cab or tempo traveler will not be that tough. Another way for this journey of would be to hire a private cab to get you to Kalpa directly from either Chandigarh or Shimla.
Also Read: Top Offbeat Destinations in Himachal
Weather in Kalpa
No matter which time off the year you visit here, Kalpa will always be cold. During summer, it will be the pleasant kind of cold; when the temperature during day will be between 10 to 20 degrees Celsius. At nights however, temperature will drop down to close to 5 to 10 degrees. In winter season, it starts to snow here and temperature remains below 0 degrees Celsius. Chances of a snowfall remain from January until the month of March. In April, it may not snow but will still remain very cold. May onward, weather will start go get warm and pleasant until July.
Monsoon arrives towards late July and remains until late August during which, it can rain here anytime. Rainfall can be from moderate to so intense that it can even cause landslides. From September, the temperature will again start to dip and will continue to do so as winter arrives. From December and then again until March next year, the area gets covered under a sheet of snow.
Clothes to Pack for Kalpa Trip
What kind of clothes to bring for Kalpa will really depend on the time of the year you are arriving here. A warm, thick and windproof jacket however is must irrespective of the month. If you were planning a winter trip, then ensure that you are carrying all heavy woolens, waterproof gloves and waterproof shoes. Also make sure that your jacket has a hood to protect your head, neck and face. During summer however, carry your regular cottons with some light woolens and a heavy jacket and that will be sufficient. While visiting in the months of July and August, ensure that you are bringing clothes that can dry fast; polyester for example. Proper rain gear inclusive of a good quality waterproof jacket along with a good umbrella will be a must for visiting Kalpa in monsoon.
Best time to Visit Kalpa
During winter season, the temperatures in Kalpa dip considerably; because of which, the months of summer from May onward can be considered as best time to visit Kalpa. This time, the weather remains moderately cold and rather pleasant.
It will however also depend on what exactly are you looking for. If lush green mountains and blossoming valleys is what interests you, then the months of monsoon or September is also a good enough time to go to Kalpa. Monsoon months of July and August however also bring copious rains to the region and landslides become common. If a snow covered white Kalpa is on your mind than the months of January and February will be best to go. Both these months bring fresh snow to Kalpa, and can see temperatures dipping well below freezing point.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Prashar Lake?
What to see in Kalpa
There is not much to see in Kalpa really. It is not a major town with a long list of must visit places. What is does offer in plenty however is peace and tranquility. Come to Kalpa if you want to spend some time away from the crowd and city life. The view of Kinner Kailash peaks remains to be the primary attraction of Kalpa. The town is also famous for its Apple orchards. Apple farming is a major part of the livelihood of people here. Taking a walk through the town and its apple orchards is a very pleasant experience.
Another tourist spot is the suicide point which is about 4 kilometers out of Kalpa towards Roghi village. If you wish to, you can continue another 5 kilometers on the same road to reach Roghi village, popular for its apple orchards and ethnic village life, which includes temples, monasteries, Kinnauri style buildings.
Kothi village which is located about 5 kilometers from Kalpa is also visited by many tourists. An ancient shrine here is dedicated to Goddess Chandika, a manifestation of Goddess Kali. The architectural style of the temple and the gold image of the deity makes this village worth a visit.
How to Move Around Kalpa
Kalpa is a small town and you can actually cover all of it on foot in less than an hour. Visiting nearby places like Roghi, Kothi and suicide point however can be a bit of a hassle if you were not visiting by your own vehicle. In that case, you will either have to hire a local taxi or a motorbike from Reckong Peo.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Sarahan?
Where to Stay in Kalpa
There are a lot of hotels in this entire area including both Reckong Peo and Kalpa so you will have no trouble finding a place to stay. Whether or not to book your stay in advance will entire depend upon you. I am more of a person who would rather arrive at the destination; find a hotel per liking and negotiate an on the spot deal. If however booking your stay in advance gives you the peace of mind than you can do that as well.
To find a good hotel however, continue driving up all the way up and cross the town of Kalpa as well. The views get better as you go further up. Do not check into any of the hotels between Reckong Peo and Kalpa. Once you arrive at Kalpa, cross it through the narrow roads and head towards HPTDC Hotel Kinner Kailash. If this hotel fits your budget, then it is a stunning place to stay. If not, then there are several other hotels around it where you can check for vacancy.
Where / What to eat at Kalpa
All the hotels here in Kalpa serve all north-Indian dishes so you can easily order at the same hotel that you were staying at. If not, then there are a few restaurants at the main Kalpa chowk. You can walk till here from your hotel and enjoy some Himachali / Kinnauri dishes at these eateries. You will also be in fact surprised by the number of Bengali people living here. There are a lot of them here running hotels and restaurants. So if you wanted to enjoy some fish curry rice, you can walk up to a Bengali restaurant and try some.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Chanshal Pass?
Shopping in Kalpa
Kinnaur is famous for its Handloom and Handicraft items like shawls, caps, mufflers, article of wood carving, metal work and silver & gold ornaments that you can consider buying . Apples of Kinnaur are considered to be among the best in the world so that can definitely be something to buy. Some other eatables that you can look for are almonds, chilgoza, ogla, apricots and grapes.
ATM / Banks in Kalpa
The nearby town of Reckong Peo is actually the headquarters of Kinnaur valley and a major town. Because of this, there are banking facilities in this area and you will have no problem finding a bank as well as an ATM.
Things to do in Kalpa
There is not much to do in Kalpa except to savor the natural beauty around. If you are into trekking then you can take a hike to Kinner Kailash peaks. If not, then just relax at your hotel and enjoy your stay. Short walks towards suicide point and Roghi Village can be a pleasant activity.
Petrol Pumps near Kalpa
There are two petrol pumps at Reckong Peo and one at Powari. As you move towards Shimla from here, you will continue coming across gas stations at regular intervals. If you however went towards Manali, then the next petrol pump after Peo is at Kaza and then at Manali.
Medical Facilities in Kalpa
There are a couple of dispensaries in Kalpa but If you need a Doctor or a hospital, you may have to drive down to Reckong Peo. The hospital in Peo is a well-equipped one. In case of a serious medical emergency, the patient would then have to be shifted to either Shimla or Chandigarh.
Mobile Network / Data Connectivity in Kalpa
No matter which network you are on, your cell phone will remain connected while visiting Kalpa. Voice clarity will be good and you will have good reception throughout the region. Even in terms of internet, you will have 3G or 4G data connectivity.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Sangla Valley?
Now to the most important part, how to plan a trip to Kalpa. For the sake of this article, I will assume that you are starting from Delhi. A journey to Kalpa will then take two days. On Day 1, you will reach either Shimla or Narkanda. I personally prefer staying at Narkanda better than the crowded Shimla city. On Day 2, you will travel for 6 to 7 hours and arrive at Kalpa. Depending on the number of days in hand, you can stay at Kalpa for a day or two and then travel back to Delhi the same road.
A better way of the journey will be to cover the entire Kinnaur valley. You will then travel from Narkanda to Kalpa and stay here for a day. From Kalpa, you can then travel to Chitkul and spend some time in Sangla valley. The next day, from Chitkul, you will arrive and stay at Sarahan; and then continue back to Delhi via Shimla.
An even better way of the journey will be to complete the entire Spiti circuit. You will then arrive at Narkanda on Day 1, at Kalpa on Day 2, at Kaza on Day 3, Manali on Day 4 and return to Delhi on Day 5. This is just the bare minimum time. Depending on the number of days you have, you can add destinations to this plan like Chitkul and Sarahan.
Kalpa Road Conditions
The road from Shimla to Kalpa is smooth all the way. It always remains in good conditions except for a few bad patches in between. There is some road widening work going on between Chandigarh and Shimla so you may face some slow traffic here; but once you cross Shimla, it is good tarmac all the way.
If you were however coming from Manali side, then the roads will mostly be bad with the stretch between Manali and Kaza a total nightmare. There will be water crossings, nalllahs, broken roads, boulders, lose stones, high altitude passes, slush, narrow sections and everything that you can imagine on a terrible road.
I hope the information above on visiting Kalpa was of help. If you have any further questions; please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.