A trip to Spiti valley is mostly done in form of a circuit; and the most common way of completing the circuit is starting from Shimla and exiting at Manali. A lot of people however, rather than traveling the circuit, prefer to reach Spiti directly via Manali. Most common reason for doing this is limited time and when the idea of the trip is to cover only Spiti. The small town of Kaza then becomes the desired destination. In this article, I will provide some information on local sightseeing in and around Kaza; accommodation choices and availability of other basic facilities there.
Kaza is the sub-divisonal headquarters of Spiti Valley and is the largest township and commercial center of the valley. The town is divided in two parts; older one knows as Kaza Khas and newer as Kaza Soma. Recently, it has come up as one of the most favorite tourist destinations in our country and numbers of people visiting here rises each year.
This small town is best known for colorful festivals and ancient Sakya Tangyud monastery located about 4 kilometers from the town. It is also popular with tourists and adventure seekers during summer months because of its central location; which makes Kaza an ideal base camp for trekking, mountaineering and tours directed to other parts of the valley.
The town has two access points, one from Kinnaur Valley and the other from Lahaul Valley. The road from Kinnaur valley starts from Shimla, follow the Sutlej River until Poo village, and then turns north to follow the Spiti river all the way to Kaza. The second road starts from Manali, crosses the mighty Rohtang La to reach Gramphoo. Here it joins the road from Keylong and proceeds south right next to Chandra River until Batal. The road then climbs up the Kunzum Pass and descends on the other side in to Spiti valley, reaching Kaza while crossing Losar on the way.
The Kinnaur route remains open throughout the year; except for occasional short periods when it may close temporarily due to landslides or heavy snowfall. The Manali route remains closed during winter months; usually from October end to early June due to heavy snowfall on both the passes en route.
To be quite honest, the scenic beauty of Kaza and the valleys around makes it a tourist attraction in itself. The small town is sitting right in the lap of mighty himalayas, right next to Spiti river; and even though a cold desert, it is still capable of capturing your gaze and keep your camera clicking. Sunset views while standing on the banks of the river Spiri are quite mesmerizing. While there isn’t much to see within the town itself, there are several tourist attractions just a couple of hours away.
Buddhism is the prominent religion in the valley here and hence, the monasteries here are the prime attraction. There are several ancient monasteries here like Key just a few kilometers away; Tangyud Monastery, Tabo and Dhankar monasteries which are definitely worth a visit. Confluence of Spiti and Pin Rivers, Marine fossils, Kibber wildlife sanctuary, Chandratal, Pin Valley are a few others to name. There are several trekking trails that start from Kaza. I have written an entire article just covering the huge list of tourist attractions in Spiti valley. You can practically spend days in Kaza visiting the places nearby and still not be done with it. Please read Tourist attractions in Spiti valley and its vicinity for a complete list of must visit places while visiting Spiti.
Finding accommodation is not a problem at all in Kaza. No matter what your budget or preference is, you will easily be able to find a place to stay for the night. There are several budget and luxurious hotels available that you may chose from. Paying guest is another option available for cheap accommodation. Camping however can be a bit of problem. Being a busy town, finding a camping spot will be a bit tough; though you may find one on the outskirts of town. I would however recommend that in Kaza, it is better to stay in a hotel rather than camping.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is whether it will be a problem to find a place to stay in peak tourist season. Answer to this question is no. It doesn’t matter which month you travel in, you will never run in a situation where you arrive at Kaza to find it completely booked. Though you may also book online or in advance, I always advise people to first reach there, find a hotel per their liking and budget and then check in. Booking in advance in most cases would only mean that you will end up paying more; and be deprived of the opportunity of staying at some other hotel that you may like better.
For a list of some recommended hotels in Kaza; and on the entire circuit as a matter of fact; please read Accommodation in Spiti Valley: Recommended Hotels & Guest Houses. Of the list, I would highly recommend Hotel Spiti Valley. It is a good place to stay with very friendly owner. Give my reference and you will get a discounted price here.
Being in a cold desert, Kaza is the one of the coldest towns in India. The temperature here varies greatly; in different seasons and even in the same day. Nights remain cold throughout the year but days are moderately warm during summer. January is the coldest period of a year with an average temperature of -45 °C, while the July is hottest month with an average temperature of 10 °C.
Contrary to common belief, you do not really need all thick woolens or furry jackets for visiting Spiti; unless it is a winter trip that you have planned. Days here are pleasantly warm and you will be comfortably able to take a stroll in the city wearing just cottons. It is the nights when temperature really dips but by then, you will be comfortably wrapped in blankets at your hotels. Most important thing to remember is to pack clothes that you can wear in layers. Pack plenty of cottons, a few light woolens and a thick windproof jacket. This way, you can put on clothes in layers if feeling cold and take them off one by one if it gets warm.
What you are packing will depend a lot on how you are traveling, which month you are traveling in and how long your itinerary is. Please read Clothes for Spiti Trip: What to Pack for more details and tips on what clothes you should be packing.
Kaza is at an altitude of 3,800 (12,470 feet) meters which actually is higher than even the city of Leh in Ladakh, the later being at 3,524 meters (11,562 feet).
Acute Mountain Sickness in Kaza
If you traveled to Kaza via Shimla, then chances of suffering from altitude sickness are next to none. Traveling by road from Shimla would mean that you have already been at higher altitudes; but most importantly, have given enough time to your body to acclimatize; as the increase in altitude from Shimla is slow and gradual. On the other hand, if you reached here from Manali; you are most likely to suffer from symptoms, at least on your day of arrival.
Some people first plan a stay at Chandratal from Manali before reaching Kaza which actually is not advisable. Chandratal is at an even higher altitude than Kaza; and is a place in the middle of nowhere. If your situation there worsens, you will be stuck for the night suffering. It is best to arrive at Kaza from Manali, give it at least a day for your body to adjust before planning a trip to any other place from there. Please read How to handle acute mountain sickness in Spiti valley for more details on what AMS is, what are its symptoms and how you can deal with it while on a trip to Spiti valley.
Banking Facilites / ATM in Kaza
There are both banks and ATM facilities available in Kaza by State bank of India. The card machine facility however may not be available at functional so you will have to depend on paying by cash.
Kaza Mobile Network
Only BSNL or MTNL networks work here, no other network available but there are several pay phone that you can use. The BSNL connections too is not that great and voice clarity can be bad. Data connectivity is intermittent and even when it is available, speed will be really slow.
Internet in Kaza
There are internet cafes in Kaza and several hotels / restaurants too provide Wi-Fi service. Speed however is again questionable. You can use it for basic browsing and checking emails but not for heavy downloads.
Mechanics / Petrol Pump in Kaza
Indian Oil has a petrol pump in Kaza which remains functional for most of the year. In peak winter however, even this petrol pump may run out of fuel sometimes. There are several mechanics available as well in the city and you will be able to get your vehicle fixed unless it is a breakdown severe in nature.
Kaza Hospital and available of medical facilities
Kaza has the only big hospital in Spiti valley. It is well equipped to handle most of the ailments like fever, flu etc. However, they will not be capable of handling some serious illness; so if you have a medical condition then it is best advised to consult your doctor before planning a trip to Kaza. Last I was in Kaza, I also noticed a couple of small doctor clinics there and medical dispensaries.
Bike Rental in Kaza
If you would like to rent a motorcycle from Kaza in order to visit the nearby areas, you can definitely do so. There are several rentals available here; depending on which motorcycle you chose, average rental would be around Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1200 per day.
Car Rental Services in Kaza
There are no self drive cars available here for rent as far as I know. If you want to rent a private taxi, you will have to rent it with the driver.
Best time to Visit Kaza
The best time to visit Kaza would be between June and September. Though it remains accessible through Kinnaur valley throughout the year, the Manali route is open only from June till early October. A visit in these months would mean that you will be able to complete the entire circuit if you have sufficient time. Even if you are short on days, even then it would be the best time because then you can reach Kaza within a day from Manali. If a winter trip is on your mind, then the month of February will be best.
I hope the information above was helpful. 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. If you have been to Spiti valley recently and have information that can be added to the article; I would request you to please mention the same in comments.