Like Ladakh, the valleys of Lahaul and Spiti are full of wonders that attract thousands of tourists each year. Full of mesmerizing landscapes, challenging terrains, adventurous roads, this journey is bound to leave you speechless and crave for more. Lahaul and Spiti is definitely not a one time thing as anyone who travels here would definitely want to come back for more. If you are also planning either a drive or motorcycle ride through this mystical land, here is a little information on the route you will be taking.
At the link below is some information that can help you plan a better itinerary for your Spiti valley trip.
If you are unsure what to see in Spiti, below is a list of places you must include.
Unlike Ladakh, Spiti is accessible by road round the year and presents a different color in every season. If being traveled to in Summer, route of the journey will be as follows with a total distance of 800 to 900 kms covered, depending upon what all places you want to visit.
- Shimla – Kufri – Fagu – Narkanda [63 kms]
- Narkanda – Kumarsain – Kingal – Rampur [65 kms]
- Rampur – Jhakri – Jeori [24 kms]
- Jeori – Sarahan [ 16 Kms]
- Sarahan – Jeori – Wangtu – Tapri – Chooling – Karcham [67 kms]
- Karcham – Sangla [18 Kms]
- Sangla – Chitkul [ 22 Kms]
- Chitkul – Sangla – Karcham – Powari – Reckong Peo [60 Kms]
- Reckong Peo – Kalpa [10 Kms]
- Kalpa – Reckong Peo – Pooh – Khab – Nako [110 Kms]
- Nako – Malling Nullah – Sumdo – Hurling – Tabo [67 Kms]
- Tabo – Dhankar [33 Kms]
- Dhankar – Kaza [34 Kms]
- Kaza – Tashigong – Langza – Kaumik – Kaza [60 Kms]
- Kaza – Losar [60 kms]
- Losar – Kunzum Pass [ 25 Kms]
- Kunzum Pass – Chandrataal [14 Kms]
- Chandrataal – Batal – Gramphu [63 Kms]
- Gramphu – Rohtang Pass – Marhi – Manali – [70 Kms]
I would also advise to take a look at the following link to one of my travlogues of Spiti Valley so you can gain more knowledge of the area.
Alternatively, You can also complete this journey the other way round, start from Manali and take the same route to reach Shimla. It is advisable however that you start from Shimla for 2 reasons. First because of high altitude acclimatization which is easier if traveled from Shimla and second due to a permit that is required to cross Rohtang. So if you started the journey from Manali, you will have to spend a day in Manali obtaining the permit from DC’s office. It is however not required to cross Rohtang from the other side to come to Manali.
In Winter, October till April, Rohtang La and Kunzum Pass remain closed so the valley is only accessible from Manali. Route will still remain open from Shimla but only till Losar from where you will need to turn around and take the same road for journey back home.
At the link below is information on when is the best time to visit Spiti valley.
Click on the link below to read about whether you need any permits for Spiti valley.
A more detailed description of this journey is provided below with a map of this entire route. Please save the map to your hard drive and zoom in to be able to read. Due to the large region that this map covers, text may not be visible here but will be once you zoom in. Right click and save image.
Shimla – Kufri – Fagu – Narkanda :
If you have never been to high altitude places and this is your first time, it is highly recommended that you spend a day or two in Shimla. It will give your body ample chance to adapt and get ready for the journey ahead. Shimla is a beautiful city and there are several places that you can visit during your stay there.
On 1st day of the journey, start early from Shimla and take the road towards Kufri and Fagu and continue towards Narkanda. Road is very scenic and in very good condition so it wont take you more than a couple of hours to reach Narkanda. Take a break here and have breakfast at either of the several restaurants available.
If you want to visit Manali from Spiti side, take a look at the article at the link below to gain more information.
A road bifurcates towards the famous Hatu Peak at Narkanda. It is an 8 kms drive that will take you to the top of Hatu peak, which presents amazing view of the valley around. Located at the top of the peak is the very beautiful Hatu Mata temple. This is a very narrow road so caution is advised while riding / driving.
Return to Narkanda after visiting the Hatu Peak and continue on the road towards Rampur. Alternatively, if you are not short on time, you may also chose to spend the day in Narkanda though there isn’t much to do around here except to enjoy the natural beauty of the place. Narkanda has plenty of hotels and guests houses to fit into any budget.
You can review the article at the link below for information on various places where you can stay in Spiti valley.
Narkanda – Kumarsain – Kingal – Rampur :
Continue on the same highway from Narkanda to Kumarsain. After about 10-15 kms, you will come across the Sutlej View Point and this is the first view of mighty river. There is a bifurcation after Kingal. Keep going straight towards Rampur, do not take the left turn. Road is in good condition and quite scenic with Sutlej flowing on your left. There are several accommodation option at Rampur as well in case you want to stop here for the night.
Rampur – Jhakri – Jeori :
Continue straight on the highway after Rampur till Jeori. Road conditions may start to deteriorate a little but the journey will still remain smooth.
Jeori – Sarahan :
There is a bifurcation again at Jeori. While the highway straight will take you towards Spiti Valley, there will be a road on your right going uphill towards Sarahan. Its located at the main bus stand / chowk at Jeori and is a steep climb to Sarahan.
Sarahn has several hotels and guest houses and you can easily find one that will fit your budget and comfort. Primary attraction here is the famous Bhimakali temple, dedicated to the mother goddess Bhimakali. There is also a bird sanctuary at Sarahan that is worth a visit, but remains closed from April until late July due to bird mating season.
Sarahan – Jeori – Wangtu – Tapri – Chooling – Karcham :
Backtrack from Sarahan until Jeori ( to the same highway that you left and turned right to Sarahan) and continue towards Karchham. Road conditions will worsen near Wangtu so much that it will bring your speed down to a mere 20 kms per hour. Caution is advised if you are riding a motorcycle as there are a lot of pebbles / stones on the road and you may slip.
Karcham is the site for a huge dam on river Satluj. Continue until you reach a bridge where the road again bifurcates. While turning left will take you towards Kalpa, the road straight leads to Sangla.
Karcham – Sangla :
A few kilometers up ahead and you will enter the beautiful Sangla valley, which starts at the town of Sangla and ends at Chitkul. The valley remains closed from December till may due to heavy snowfall. Until 1989 outsiders could not enter the valley without a special permit from the Government of India, due to its strategic position on the Indo-Tibet/China border. Baspa River flows right through the valley and the sight of surrounding lush green hills is enough to mesmerize anyone.
Karcham to Sangla is a very steep climb and road will continue to stay bad but will get a little better near Sangla. You will also start to feel the temperature dropping and increase in the pace of the wind. There is an ATM at Sangla in case you want to withdraw cash.
Below is information on where you can expect to find banks and ATMs while on your trip to Spiti valley.
Sangla has several guest houses and hotels if you would like to stay here for the night. While the primary attraction is the natural beauty of this place, the Nages god temple and Kamru Fort are also worth a visit.
Sangla – Chitkul : If you thought Sangla was scenic, Chitkul will sweep you off your feet. The beauty of this place is like no other. It is a very small village consisting of less than a 100 houses and is surrounded by the mighty Himalayas with River Baspa flowing right through the village. There are several hotels in Chitkul so finding an accommodation should not be a problem. There isn’t much to do here except to enjoy the scenic beauty of the place while the only sounds you hear will be of birds chirping and of water flowing in Baspa River.
One of the most important things you need to be ready for before embarking upon the journey is acute mountain sickness which you may have to deal with.
Chitkul – Sangla – Karcham – Powari – Reckong Peo : Backtrack again to the main highway at Karcham and from there continue till Powari. Road is smooth but only for a few kms around the dam post which it again turns into a nightmare. After crossing Powari you will again have to leave the highway and turn left on a road going uphill towards Reckong Peo.
Reckong Peo is more of an army base and the only significance this place has in this journey is that foreign nationals are required to obtain a pass here that they will have to submit at a couple of checks posts in Spiti Valley. Indian citizens can just pass right through Reckong Peo without needing to worry about any pass.
Reckong Peo – Kalpa : Upon reaching Reckong Peo, you will come across a junction, more like the main market. There is a road that goes left, further uphill, at this junction. Turn on this road and this will take you to Kalpa, roughly another 10 kms from here.
Kalpa is a small town famous for its apple orchards. Primary attraction of Kalpa is that it presents a magnificent view of Kinner Kailash. Other places of interests are “Suicide Point” (Only because it gives a panoramic view of the valley, not because you want to die here) and Kothi, 3 km from Recong Peo. Kothi has a temple dedicated to the goddess Chanadika Devi. This temple has a: very unusual architectural style and fine sculpture. An exquisite gold image of goddess is enshrined in sanctum.
Kalpa – Reckong Peo – Pooh – Khab – Nako : Once again you will have to travel back on the same road to the point where you took the turn towards Reckong Peo. Do not forget to tank up at Reckong Peo. The next petrol station on this route is not until Kaza. Once back on the highway, head towards Pooh. Road will continue to be a disaster for now.
You will have to register yourself near Pooh at a check post before continuing the journey further. Keep your driving license handy as you will be required to produce it at the check post. After this the road will turn from a nightmare to a bliss and the journey once again will become smooth. Pretty soon you will find yourself on the ascent of Kazigs, numerous hair-pin bends just like the gata loops of Ladakh. From here its a straight run to Nako. Keep in mind that somewhere along the highway you will again come across a bifurcation and the small road on your right is the one to Nako. So yes, once again you will have to leave the main highway and take an alternate road to reach your destination but don’t worry, this time its only for a few kilometers
There are a couple of hotels at Nako and also a PWD guest house right next to Nako Lake.
There isn’t much to do or see around here but it is indeed a very nice and silent small village. If you are up for for trekking, then look out for a flag at one of the nearby hill. Trek up to that spot to see a panoramic view of the village and the mountains around it. It is also a great sunset viewing spot.
Nako – Malling Nullah – Sumdo – Hurling – Tabo : From Nako, its a smooth drive to Tabo. Road conditions will mostly remain good with a few bad patches here and there.
A few kilometers before Tabo, you will come across a cemented gate on your right and road heading towards Gue village. This site is famous for a 650 year old Mummy located here and is worth a visit. From the gate, it is an 8 kms drive to the village. The temple where the Mummy is placed is on a hilltop and is hard to miss once you have reached the village. You can also ask any of the locals and they can point you in the right direction. After visiting the temple, drive back 8 kms to the highway and continue towards Tabo.
Primary attraction at Tabo is the Tabo Monastery which is said to be over a thousand years old. In case you want to stay at Tabo for the night, there are a few hotels here, of which the Banjara Camps retreat is the most luxurious. The temperatures here plummet at night. There are other hotels and hostels like Tashi Gangsar, Menthok Dumra at Tabo, including the monastery’s own guest houses.
Tabo – Dhankar : Roughly 30 kms from Tabo is the small village of Dhankar. To reach here, you will again have to leave the main highway and take a road going uphill on your right. There are several signboards on the way and also on the road that goes to Dhankar so there is very little chance that you will miss it. There are 2 monasteries in Dhankar. The new Monastery is located right at the start of the village while the old one is located a few meters ahead.
There is also a lake near Dhankar, known as Dhankar Lake. You will have to trek on foot for a few kilometers to reach the lake. Dhankar does not have any hotels, nearest accommodation available is either at Kaza or Tabo.
There is a small museum in the Dhankar Monastery. Interestingly, In 2006, World Monuments Fund selected Dhankar gompa as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. A nonprofit group, Dhangkar Initiative, is attempting to organize its conservation.
Dhankar to Kaza : Next town on the route is Kaza, district headquarters of Spiti valley. Some of the major tourist attractions in and around Kaza is Tangyud Monastery, Key Monastery, Kibber village,Gette Village, Langza village famous for presents of marine fossils, the Pin Valley National Park, a protected area for Himalayan high altitude wildlife and the Losar village 60 km to the north of Kaza.
At least a day’s visit at Kaza is recommended. There are multiple hotels in Kaza so finding an accommodation is not a problem. Relax the first day you reach here and go for local sight seeing in the town.
Kaza – Tashigong – Langza – Kaumik – Kaza : Start early the next day from Kaza to visit the nearby villages of Gette, Tashigang, Kibber, Kaumik and Langza. Leave your luggage at the hotel and you will be returning to Kaza by evening. Drive to all these nearby villages is very scenic and will give you the real taste of Spiti.
To reach these villages, you will take the road towards Manali from Kaza. After a few kilometers you will come across a bridge and road will bifurcate in two. Taking left and crossing the bridge will take you towards Manali so the road straight, going uphill, is the one you will continue on to reach your destination. Located near the bridge is the Kye Monastery and is well worth a visit.
Near Key Monastery, road will again divide into two. One of the roads will take you to the village of Langza and the other one towards Kaumik.So if you decided to visit Langza first, you will have to return downhill all the way and then take the other road to visit the villages of Kibber and Kaumik.
Langza is famous for very old fossils found here however this is not something that you will find lying around, unless you are extremely lucky. You will have to ask the locals and they can show you some of the fossils they found. If you are interested, you can eve buy some. There is a restaurant at Langza where you can eat and see some of these fossils.
All these places are very small villages so do not get your hopes high. There is nothing in particular to visit here but to enjoy the natural beauty of Spiti valley, which i am sure is what you came on this journey for.
Kaza – Losar – Kunzum Pass – Chandrataal : Fill up your vehicle’s fuel tank before leaving Kaza as there is no other petrol pump till Manali. After Kaza lies the small village of Losar. This is a good place to grab a bite to eat if you are feeling hungry as you wont find a dhaba or restaurant until Chandrataal or Batal. You will also need to register at a check post at Losa before continuing further. Keep your driving license handy as you will be required to produce it at the check post.
After Losar, the ascent to Kunzum La starts. Tar will once again vanish and the roads will be no more than dirt tracks. From here until Rohtang lies the worst road you would have ever driven on, so get yourself ready for a joyride.
After crossing Kunzum Pass, a few kilometers downhill towards Batal, you will come across a small road barely wide enough for a car. This is a 14 kms road that will take you to Chandrataal. Caution is advised while driving here. This is a very narrow road and if you are in a car, please keep on the lookout for any vehicle coming from the other side. If you spot a car in the other direction, please look for a wide enough spot and wait there for the other vehicle to pass you by.
Click on the link below to read about where you can stay at Chandratal.
Road that goes to Chandrataal.
As you get closer to Chandrataal, you will start coming across several camping sites and tenting accommodations. Here it will depend on what kind of accommodation you are looking for. While the first few camps that you will come across to are luxurious with proper toilet arrangements, these are way too costly [upto 2500 / head] and a few kilometers away from the lake. If budget is on your mind and you want to camp as near as possible to the lake, then keep going on this road until the very end. At the end of the road is a parking area where visitors are required to leave their vehicles and walk for a kilometer to the lake. There are 2 camping sites near this parking area , merely 10 mins of walk away from the lake and would only charge you Rs. 500 – 600 for a night for 1 camp which is wide enough to accommodate 2 people.
For information on other places you can camp in Spiti, please take a look at the article at the link below.
Camping site at Chandrataal.
Chandrataal – Batal – Gramphu : Travel back 14 kms on the road that you took to reach Chandrataal till you are back on the highway towards Batal. If you are hungry, you can eat at one of the dhabas located at Batal.
After Batal comes the worst patch of road on this entire route. Your average speed would drop down to 10 kilometers / hr, thanks to the highly damaged road and numerous water streams flowing on it. Some of these water streams are slightly deep and Ii have personally seen vehicles getting stuck so if you are in a car, please stop, step out and get an idea of the depth before you try to take your car across. If you are on a motorcycle, please do not make the mistake of taking your shoes off. Chances are that you may have to put your feet down while crossing and can get hurt due to the big stones lying underneath the flowing water.
Gramphu – Rohtang Pass – Marhi – Manali : At Gramphu is the bifurcation where one road goes towards Spiti (that you just traveled 0n), another one to your right goes towards Leh and the one on your left will take you to mighty Rohtang Pass. I am going to assume that you will head towards Manali now so take the one on your left, cross Rohtang Pass and reach Manali to mark an end to this journey of a lifetime. Now no matter how many times you return to Spiti, there will never be a time like the first time.
Road conditions in Spiti valley are always in a terrible condition. Please review the the post at the link below to gain latest information on the road conditions in Spiti valley before you start on the trip.
Please take a look at the link below if you would like to read more about the valley or see some pics in order to gain some more knowledge before you start on your travel.
I hope this information was useful. If you have any further question, please feel free to comment and ask and I would be glad to answer.