March is considered as the favorable month for a winter trip to Spiti valley and for several good reasons. There will be plenty of snow all around; and you will still get to see that white wonder called Spiti valley. But at the same time, you will not be running the risks that you would in the earlier months of January and February. Chances of a heavy snowfall and roads getting blocked for long duration will be considerably less in March. Weather will still be definitely cold but not as much as the previous months. You will be able to include places like Kibber, Komik, Langza and Hikkim in your itinerary; and if the weather favored, you can even cover Chitkul while on the way. So in short, Spiti Valley in March means everything that winter season has to offer but with a lesser risk factor.
With that being said, it is still the winter season over there; and you will still need to keep in mind a few things for a hassle free trip. What those things are and how can you best plan your trip to Spiti in March is what I will be discussing in this article.
I will break this article in three parts. First I will present an itinerary that you can follow for a winter trip to Spiti valley; followed by a detailed description of it. Lastly, I will mention a few factors that you should keep in mind during your travel. For the sake of this article and the itinerary, I will assume that you are staring your journey from Delhi. If however you were coming from a different place, then the journey for first and last day would be different; rest of the details will still apply.
How to Plan a Trip to Spiti Valley in March?
Below is an example of an itinerary that you can follow for visiting Spiti in March.
- Delhi to Narkanda
- Narkanda to Sangla / Chitkul
- Sangla / Chitkul to Nako
- Nako to Kaza
- Kaza to Mudh ( Pin Valley)
- Mudh to Kalpa
- Kalpa to Shimla / Chail
- Shimla / Chail to Delhi
9 days is what I usually recommend as an ideal duration for a trip to Spiti valley. The journey of course can be done in a few other ways as well; but traveling in the manner suggested above will ensure that you do not travel too much on any given day; while traveling most of the tourist areas on the way. A detailed description of the itinerary is mentioned below.
Shimla to Kaza in Winter
You will reach Narkanda from Delhi on Day 1 which is about 400 kilometers of distance; and 9 to 10 hours of travel time. Road conditions will mostly be all good and there are several hotels in Narkanda that you can stay at. Now the travel on Day 2 will actually depend on the weather. The road to Chitkul usually gets blocked in winter but may get opened in March. Apart from the weather, it will also depend on which part of the month you went in. If you were traveling towards end of March then chances of finding the road open are greater. If the road is open then go all the way to Chitkul on Day 2; otherwise stay in Sangla.
On Day 3, you will travel to Nako and stay there for the night. You may or may not have encountered snow so far in the trip but chances are that you will find some around Nako. Road conditions will be a mix of good and bad. The bad patch is mostly around Pooh. After Nako, it is a straight run to Kaza and the road conditions too will get a bid bad here. You will spend your Day 5 in Kaza, exploring the nearby villages of Kibber, Komik, Langza, Hikkim etc.
It is all doable in a single day but if you have more time, then you can break this in two days as well. You can stay for the night at any of these villages as paying guest and return to Kaza the next day. Chances are the you will be traveling through snow on the road at several places from Nako to Kaza; and also while visiting the nearby villages.
For your return journey from Kaza to Delhi, your first destination will be the village of Mudh in Pin Valley; located at a distance of about 50 kilometers that can easily be covered in 2 hours at most. After Mudh, you will travel back to Kalpa taking the same route via Pooh. Now depending on you own preference, you can either travel to Shimla from Kalpa and stay there for a night. Or if you find Shimla too crowded like I do then you can go a bit further to the small sleepy town of Chail and break the journey there. The next day you will reach back home in Delhi and this will mark an end to your trip.
This is a brief overview of how your journey will look while traveling to Spiti valley in March. If you have any doubts or want to clarify anything further, please scroll to the bottom of this page and feel free to ask in comments section.
Why do I recommend traveling this way is a question that I will further address in the article; along with some other tips to make your journey smooth.
Is Spiti valley open in March
There are two ways that you can enter or exit Spiti valley. One is via Shimla which is longer but also the easier one. The second route is via Manali; which is half the distance than Shimla but also way more difficult and adventurous. Now when you enter Spiti from Manali, within a short distance of 200 kilometers, you will cross two high altitude passes on the way; both of which are notorious for receiving high amount of snow each year. Due to this very fact, the Kaza to Manali route remains open only from late May till mid October. Rest of the time the road is closed after the passes of Rohtang and Kunzum start to receive snow.
The road via Shimla however does not have even a single pass on the route. Your increase in height is gradual spread over a journey of 2 to 3 days, covering over 400 kilometers in total. This route remains open for all 12 months a year. There could be occasional roadblocks owing to heavy snowfall or monsoon; but authorities clear the road just as soon as they are able to.
So yes, to answer the question, Spiti valley is definitely open in the month of March. But you will have to go via Shimla and come back the same way. You will be able to find basic facilities like a place to stay and eat as well which I have further explained in the article.
How to reach Spiti valley in March
Now in terms of route, you will have to go via Shimla as I explained above. The best way to travel of course will be by your own vehicle; be it a motorcycle or a car. You can however travel by public transport as well but keep in mind that the frequency of either the bus or shared taxi will not be that great. Usually the Shimla to Kaza bus remains operational throughout the year; but may get suspended if there was a lot of snow on the route threatening the safety of the passengers. You will be able to find a bus or shared cab for Sangla as well from Reckong Peo; but availability for Chitkul will depend on whether or not the road is open and the amount of snow present.
Once you are in Kaza, it will be best to hire a private cab for local sightseeing. You can easily get it for about Rs. 4000 to Rs. 5000 per day. The bus service towards local villages may remain unavailable in March but if it is operational, you can definitely board a bus too. The daily bus from Kaza to Mudh usually remains operational in March so you will have no problem getting to Pin valley. If there is no bus then you would have to look for either a private cab or a shared one.
Weather in Spiti valley in March
I know I stated above that March is the best month for a winter trip to Spiti valley but it is still a winter trip we are talking about. The weather is still going to be extremely cold and temperature either will remain below 0 or close to it. It can still snow anytime anywhere in the valley. Historically, Spiti valley does receive plenty of snow in March as well and throughout the month. When I say cold, we are really talking about the freezing kind that will make you want to crawl back under the blankets. It will be foggy and sun can go missing for several days altogether. Due to all the snow around, it will also be a bit wet everywhere with lot of slush on the roads.
Spiti Valley Temperature in March
It will really depend on which part of the month you are traveling in. In the first couple of weeks, average day temperature of Spiti remains around 1 Degree Celsius. At nights, this temperature drops down to around -10 to -15 Degrees. During the later part of the month, the average night temperature remains around -10. Days too will be cold at an average of around 5 Degrees Celsius.
Clothes to Pack
Which then brings us to the next question of what kind of clothes should you be packing for the trip? Considering the kind of temperatures we just talked about, the first thing you need to put in the bag are a few good quality thermals. When I say good quality, I mean the kind that keeps you warm but is also comfortable to sleep in at night. After thermals, woolens will definitely be required for the trip followed by a heavy, warm and windproof jacket. Please make sure that your jacket also has a hood to cover your neck, ears and head. If not, then pack a cap and a muffler as well.
Gloves, woolen socks, water proof shoes, sunglasses, lip balm, cold cream, some basic medicines for flu, cold and fever are some of the other things that you should be packing for this trip.
Book your Stay in Advance
I do not really advocate booking hotels in advance anywhere. Arriving at the destination, finding a hotel per your liking and budget; and then negotiating a deal is what I really prefer. This rule however cannot be applied when it is a winter trip we are talking about. Since March is actually the off-season, majority of the hotels and guest houses remain closed till April or May. You may arrive in the valley only to find that there is no place open to accommodate your stay.
A few hotels however remain operation even in peak winters; that I will recommend you to call and book you stay in advance. This would be beneficial for both you and the hotel owner. You will have your peace of mind knowing where you will be staying; and the hotel owner too will get some time to prepare for your arrival and keeping the room ready.
Keep your expectations Low
Accommodation options at this time will be very limited. You may have to work with staying at some very basic guest house or even as a paying guest. Your stay would be comfortable and warm but please do not expect a luxurious hotel treatment. Likewise, choices in terms of food too will be limited. Getting fresh raw vegetables at this time of the year is a challenge for people of Spiti and they usually stock up for several weeks ahead. Food served will be very basic but delicious indeed. If you were traveling by a Car then I would recommend that you bring in some basic eating items along like snacks, biscuits, soup packets etc.
No Running Water
Yes, there is not going to be any running water anywhere. Why? Because with temperatures running so low, water freezes even in the pipes. Hot water will be provided but in buckets and in limited quantity which you will have to use a bit conservatively. This also means that you may have to go for days without a shower. If that is a big no for you then maybe you should cancel this trip.
Your morning business too will have to be done squatting over a dry pit since there will be no running water anywhere including toilets. Another thing to consider before you plan and finalize the trip.
Keep Buffer Days
The itinerary I suggested above was for 9 Days but I highly recommend that you keep at least 3-4 days as buffer. It can still snow in the valley anytime; and sometimes so much that the roads can get blocked for several days. Connectivity will be restored as soon as the weather clears; but it also means that you will be stuck in Spiti for a few days. So to be on a safer side, plan a trip keeping in mind that you may have to add a few more days if weather closed in.
May have to return Halfway
It happens a lot with people traveling to Spit in winter. Sometimes the weather forces people back with a roadblock; and sometimes they just return on their own unable to cope up with freezing temperatures anymore. It it started to snow heavy while you were on the road then you may have to turn back and give up the plan of reaching Kaza.
Sightseeing in Spiti Valley
In terms of sightseeing, you may have to leave a few places out. Manali Kaza road will be closed so that is out entirely. The road to Chitkul as well may remain closed. Villages like Kibber, Komik, Langza etc remain open but it depends on the snow on the roads. For local sightseeing, I will strongly recommend that you hire a local 4×4 vehicle in Kaza. The roads to these small villages are very narrow and with so much snow, it becomes a bit risky to be driving on.
Chandratal in March
Chandratal remains out of bounds in the month of March. With Kunzum Pass snowed out, there is no way that you can drive to the lake. After all the snowfalls throughout winter, the amount of snow on ground too adds up to several feet; making it impossible to even trek to the lake. There are of course no camp sites available at Chandratal in March.
Also Read: How to Pan a Trip to Pin Valley?
Do not Plan unless you are good at Wheel
To be able to be driving or riding through so much snow, slush and slippery roads; you really need to be good at the wheel. You should have decent enough driving / riding experience and should know how to to maneuver your vehicle at tricky spots. If you are not confident of your own driving skills then visiting Spiti in March may not be the best of the ideas.
Do not Start early in the Day
All the snow on the roads turns into ice overnight and becomes extremely slippery. One small miscalculation in such conditions can send you spinning down the road. Even if there was no snow, the risk of Black Ice forever remains in the month of March. To avoid any risks, better wait for the sun to come up before you hit the road. Some sunlight would ensure that any black ice present on the road has melted away. Starting late would also mean that a couple of other local vehicles would have traveled on the road already making it a bit easier to drive.
There are banks and ATMs in Kaza but their functionality and availability of cash remains highly questionable in the month of March. Hence it would be better to carry some amount of cash along that can last for a few days. By few days, I mean at least a week to 10 days. Withdraw this money either at home, or Shimla or somewhere near Kinnaur; before you enter Spiti.
Petrol Pump in Kaza
Like ATMs, there is petrol pump in Kaza but it may just be closed in the month of March. All the snow makes it tough for these fuel stations to maintain a constant petrol supply. Traveling from Shimla, the last petrol pump would be at Reckong Peo which would definitely be operational After Peo, the next one however is in Kaza. My recommendation would be to get a tank full at Peo and then carry some spare fuel that is enough to bring you back from Kaza in case there was no petrol available there.
Get your vehicle Ready
Finding a mechanic in Spiti valley is possible but not in the month of March. If your vehicle broke down on you then it will become your worst nightmare. Before starting the trip, you need to ensure that you get your vehicle serviced well in advance and ready for the journey ahead. Inspect every part of your car or motorcycle carefully. Repair or replace whatever seems dicey. It is not just you who will be under stress while traveling through Spiti but also your vehicle. Diesel run engines can sometimes give start up trouble in cold regions so you will have to speak to a mechanic and get that taken care of as well.
Also Read: How to Prepare your Car for Spiti Trip?
Things to Carry for Spiti Trip
Now I have already talked about the kind of clothes you should pack. Good quality gloves and shoes are of utmost importance. With so much snow around, it will be easy to get a frostbite so ensure that you are bringing a good waterproof pair of shoes. It may sound like an impossible thing in winter but getting tanned and sunburn too can happen in March. So pack a sunscreen lotion of highest SPF that you can find. Sunglasses too be be greatly helpful. With all the snow and sun shining bright does put a strain on your eyes. Bring in a lip balm, some cold cream and moisturizer as well. Though there are medical stores in Spiti valley but you should also pack some basic medicines likes for cold, headache, stomachache etc.
Spiti valley in March End
Planning a trip towards the end of March will be beneficial if you do not want to get caught in extreme weather; or get stuck in Spiti valley due to roadblocks. It won’t really make much of a different though because the temperature will still be quite freezing and chances of snowfall will remain throughout the month.
Shimla to Kaza in March
The road from Shimla will remain open all the way till Kaza from Shimla. You will not find any snow on the route until Nako though; or on Chitkul road if you went that way. Till Nako, the road conditions are a mix of good and bad. The bad patch is mostly between Karchham and Sangla or Chitkul and then between Reckong Peo and Khab. After Nako it is mostly an average road but with all the snow, it will become a bit difficult to handle. Good part is that there are no steep climbs. It is a downhill drive after Nako and then a straight road all the way to Kaza.
Manali to Kaza in March
This part of the road will remain completely blocked out. From Manali, the farthest you can go is till Gulaba check post and will not be allowed to travel any further. From Kaza side, depending on the amount of snow, you can go only as far as the small village of Losar. After Losar starts the climb for Kunzum Pass which will be blocked completely.
Car or Motorcycle ?
Whether to go by car or motorcycle is entirely a personal choice. Both have their own pros and cons. A car will keep you protected from cold but handling a motorcycle will be easier if you encountered snow. As a ground rule though, bring a car only if you have an SUV with good ground clearance. If your car is 4×4 then it would be a great added benefit. If by motorcycle, it would be better to travel light and solo. In both the cases, you must get your vehicle ready and well serviced.
Lahaul Spiti in March
I am adding this point here only because people tend to consider Lahaul and Spiti as one place which is not really true. Spiti valley is the area around Kaza and Chandratal; whereas Lahaul valley is the area around Keylong, Jispa and Udaipur. While traveling in March, you will be only visiting Spiti valley from Shimla side and coming back the same way. Lahaul valley remains cut off entirely during March after Rohtang, Kunzum and Baralacha La get snowed out. So for a winter trip, we are only talking about visiting Spiti and not Lahaul.
Inform your Folks
Only BSNL connection works in Spiti valley; and even then you may have to go off the grid completely for a couple of days. Inform your folks about your travel plans and hand them over a copy of your itinerary. They should know where you intend to be and on which date; so that in case something goes wrong somewhere, they will know where to look for you. For their peace of mind, keep calling them whenever you can and keep updating about your whereabouts.
Also Read: Mobile Network in Spiti Valley
Why visit Spiti Valley in March?
Now with all of the above said and done, question that comes to mind is why a person should visit Spiti valley in March? A trip to Spiti in March is beyond doubt for the adventurous type only. Harsh weather and challenging roads present a perfect opportunity for anyone who has the slightest of interest in either adventure traveling, off-roading; or wants to take some stunning shots of snow covered valleys.
If you are someone who would rather be at a place with only a handful of people around; spending some time at a place standing still in time, than Spiti in winter is the destination you seek. The solitude and tranquility you will get here will be like none other.
Biggest charm however will be of snow, snow and snow. You will get it in ample amounts; so much that you would have your fill for years to come. Another added benefit at this time will be to witness the local hospitality and get a true taste of Spitian life. You may choose to stay as a paying guest with any of the locals and get a firsthand experience of how these people survive in such harsh climates; listen to their stories, local tales; and know how they can still be warm and gentle towards their guests despite of leading such a tough life.
If it interests you then you can also indulge in some winter sports like Skiing or Ice skating. The greatest benefit is going on a trek towards Kibber or Komik and then further into the wilderness to catch a glimpse of mysterious Snow Leopard. This however would required you to stay in Kaza for a few days; and have enough stamina to be trekking around in so much snow.
Challenges of visiting Spiti Valley in March
After why you should go, let me also note down a few challenges you will face while visiting Spiti in March.
- Nightmarish Roads with snow, slush, loose stones, shooting rocks and water streams
- Closure of roads that can even last weeks at times leaving you stuck at a particular place.
- Will have to leave Manali Kaza route, Chitkul and Chandratal out of Itinerary
- With almost the entire valley closed, medical assistance in emergency will be minimal. If you are someone with a medical history, then you must not visit Spiti at this time.
- No running water and hot water in limited quantity
- Doing morning business over a dry pit
- Temperature several degrees below zero
- Fuel will freeze overnight if you were traveling in a Diesel run vehicle
- No electricity
- No phone connectivity
Can I visit Spiti Valley in March?
The answer is that yes you definitely can. Just keep in mind the points above and it will actually be a fun trip to a white Spiti. I hope the information above was of help. If you have any other questions; please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.