The month of April is almost gone and with the arrival of May; excitement among a lot of people have started to build up about their upcoming trip to Spiti valley. It is usually the months of June till September that are considered a good time for a ride on Spiti circuit; but a lot of people travel in earlier months as well. So if you were wondering about whether or not you can visit Spiti valley in May then the answer is a definite yes. There are however a few things that you will have to keep in mind which I will discuss in this article. Depending on the weather conditions, while you will be able to cover most of the must visit places in Spiti valley; you may have to leave some places out of your itinerary if you were visiting there in the month of May.
I will talk about in the article below details like how to travel, what to see and where to stay. If however, after reading the article, you had any other questions, you may ask in the comments section towards the bottom of this page.
Is Spiti Valley Open in May
The answer is a definite yes. Which road you will take to get there may differ on basis of what time of the month you are traveling in but irrespective of it, you will still be able to make it to Kaza in the month of May.
How to reach Spiti in May?
Spiti Valley can be accessed from either Shimla or Manali. The road from Shimla to Kaza remains open for all 12 months; except for occasional road blocks caused by melting snow. However even if that happens, authorities clear the snow just as soon as they are able to and open the road. Manali to Leh route however remains open for only 4 to 5 months a year.
Reason behind this is that from Shimla to Kaza, there is not even a single high altitude pass en route. The increase in altitude is gradual and you reach Kaza after a relaxed journey form 3 days from Shimla. Even if you rushed, it will still take you 2 days at least. From Manali however, the journey can be done in about 8 – 9 hours and within this short distance, there are two high altitude passes in between; and both of them are notorious for high amount of snow they receive each winter. Yes, I am referring to Rohtang La and Kunzum La here.
The road from Manali to Kaza open sometime towards late May to early June and then gets blocked again sometime in the month of October after it starts to snow at Kunzum Pass. So the first thing you will need to consider while planning a trip to Spiti valley in May is the accessibility of Manali route.
Shimla to Kaza in May
So the route from Shimla to Spiti Valley in May will be open for the entire month and you can easily plan your journey by either a car, motorcycle or by Bus.
Manali to Kaza in May
The route from Manali to Spiti Valley in May will definitely be closed in first half of the month; and may or may not open in second half. Even if it was open, you will have to travel by either your own vehicle or shared cabs. The Bus service becomes available only in early June; after BRO has done some restoration work for a couple of weeks after opening.
Permits Needed for Spiti Valley
One of the most frequent question I get asked by people going to Spiti is regarding the permits needed. If you are an Indian national, there is no permit required for you to visit Spiti. If however you are a foreign national, then you will have to get an Inner line permit from either Shimla, Manali or Reckong Peo. For someone starting from Manali, then irrespective of your nationality, you will also have to get a permit to cross over Rohtang Pass. I have explained the procedure of obtaining both these permits in details at the links below.
Snow in Spiti Valley in May
Will you get to see snow? It really depends on what time of the month you are traveling in; but your chances of finding snow in Spiti in May are only at either Rohtang Pass or at Kunzum Pass. Both of these passes are open only towards end of May. So if you were traveling in later part of the month from Manali to Kaza, or vice versa, then yes, you will get to see some snow on the ground at top of these passes. If you however went in earlier part of the month and covered only Shimla to Kaza side of the circuit, then you will not find any snow anywhere.
Chances of catching a live snowfall in Spiti valley in May or anywhere else on the route for that matter are next to none so keep your expectations at the lowest possible level in that aspect.
How to Plan a visit to Spiti Valley in May
I will being by first laying down a sample itinerary; followed by a brief explanation of the same and a few other trips. For the sake of this article, I will assume that you are traveling from Delhi. If your staring point was not Delhi than only the first and last day of the trip will change. Rest will remain the same. I am also assuming here that you are traveling by your own vehicle. If you were however traveling by public transport then you can still follow this plan but it may take longer than 10 days.
- Delhi to Narkanda – Day 1
- Narkanda to Chitkul – Day 2
- Chitkul to Nako – Day 3
- Nako to Mud Village (Pin Valley) – Day 4
- Mud Village to Kaza – Day 5
- Kaza to Kibber / Komik / Langza / Hikkim to Kaza – Day 6
- Kaza to Kalpa – Day 7
- Kalpa to Sarahan – Day 8
- Sarahan to Shimla / Chail – Day 9
- Shimla to Delhi – Day 10
I agree that not everyone will be able to follow this itinerary to the last detail. Your final travel plan will depend on several factors like how many days you have in hand, how you are traveling, if there is a budget constraint etc but the itinerary above should at least give you an idea on how you can draft your own.
Also read: Recommended Hotels on Spiti Circuit
Itinerary for Spiti Valley in May
Following the above mentioned plan, destination for Day 1 will be Narkanda which I find much better than staying at crowded Shimla. This journey can easily be completed in about 7-8 hours depending upon your speed. On Day 2, you will start really early from Narkanda and reach Chitkul. I say early because from here on, roads will mostly be bad; and travel time between Narkanda to Chitkul can easily be up to 8-9 hours.
From Chitkul, you will reach Nako on Day 3 which again is about 8 hours of travel. Destination for Day 4 will be Mud village for which you will have to take the diversion from Attargo bridge after Dhankar. You will reach Kaza on Day 5 and explore the nearby areas on Day 6. On Day 7, you will take the long drive back to the small town of Kalpa. This will easily be about 9-10 hours of journey so ensure that you get an early start again. Sarahan will be the destination for next day after Kalpa and then you will continue back to Delhi via Shimla on Day 10.
If you cannot afford all 10 days, then you can remove a few days from the itinerary to make it a short trip. Trip to Pin Valley can be removed and you can get to Kaza straight. Exploring villages of Kibber and Komik can be removed as well. From Kalpa, you can easily make it to Shimla in a day so Sarahan can also be removed while returning back. If you need more details on any part of this journey, please comment and ask.
While making your own itinerary, there are a few things you must keep in mind that I will mention below.
Spiti Valley in Early to Mid-May
If your plan to go to Spiti was some time towards early to Mid-May, then you must plan your trip via Shimla only. Historically, the route from Manali to Kaza has rarely ever opened for tourists before 20th of May. This is one of the greatest confusion that the people have while going to Spiti in May. If your trip is ending on a date prior to 20th of the month, you will have to reach Kaza from Shimla and return the same way. Manali route thus cannot be part of your travel plan and this is how I have drafted the itinerary I suggested above.
Spiti Valley in May End
If you were keen on completing the entire Spiti circuit then you will have to choose your timings carefully. Plan your trip in a way that you are crossing the Kaza – Manali stretch in the very last few days of the month. Please note that even then there is a great risk that the road may still not be open and you will have to return to Shimla only. In 2017, this road was opened around 10th of June. But in the month of May, if there is a chance to complete the entire Spiti circuit, then it is in May end and not before that. Your itinerary in that case will then change to something like this.
- Delhi to Narkanda – Day 1
- Narkanda to Sarahan – Day 2
- Sarahan to Chitkul – Day 3
- Chitkul to Kalpa – Day 4
- Kalpa to Nako – Day 5
- Nako to Mud Village (Pin Valley) – Day 6
- Mud Village to Kaza – Day 7
- Kaza to Kibber / Komik / Langza / Hikkim to Kaza – Day 8
- Kaza to Chandratal – Day 9
- Chandratal to Manali – Day 10
- Manali to Delhi – Day 11
Whether or not you will be following this itinerary entirely depends on the weather; and how fast BRO is able to clear the road. In the 1st itinerary, from Kaza, you went back to Shimla but in the second one, you will continue traveling to Chandratal and stay there for the night. On Day 10, you will take the Manali Kaza route via Rohtang Pass and stay for the night in Manali. On Day 11, you will return home to Delhi.
Kunzum Pass in May
Kunzum Pass remains closed out for most part of May as BRO works to clear the snow. It is only after 20th of May that the mighty pass gets declared open for light motor vehicles.
Spiti Valley Weather in May
Pleasant and warm is what will describe the climate in Spiti valley in may the best. Sun however will really be harsh though once you reach the barren of Spiti valley; so ensure that you are carrying some good sunblock lotion. Nights will be still be cold with temperature dropping drastically and close to 0 degrees. Even during day, it will be warm but you will still feel the chill in the wind.
Also read: What Clothes should you pack for Spiti Trip
Where to Stay in Spiti Valley in May?
You will be able to find accommodation at all the places I suggested in itinerary easily. If you want to book in advance for your peace of mind, you may chose to do so; however I will not recommend it. Since it is just the beginning of the season, there will not be many tourists around and you will have no problem in negotiating an on the spot deal. If you booked in advance, you may actually end up paying more.
The only tricky part is accommodation at Chandratal. Even if the Manali Kaza route opened by May end, camp sites at Chandratal get operational only by early June. So before you finalize your travel plan, please inquire and confirm that there is in fact a camp site at the lake that is up and running and can accommodate you for the night. If there isn’t then the only choice you have is to start from Kaza by first light of the day; cover Chandratal on the way and reach Manali the same day. This will easily be about 12 to 14 hours journey considering the traffic jams at Rohtang Pass so start and travel accordingly.
Also read: Budget Hotels in Spiti Valley
Keep Buffer Days
This will actually apply irrespective of your time of travel. When going to a place like Spiti valley, it is always wise to keep at least 1 day or 2 as buffer. If you got stuck at any of the places for any reason, like a landslide for example, then you will at least be able to afford it. Do not tie yourself down to a very strict travel plan.
Lahaul Spiti in May
I am adding this point here because people often get confused in these two places. Lahaul is not the same as Spiti. Lahaul valley is the area around Keylong and Udaipur where the Spiti valley is the area around Kaza and Chandratal. If you want to cover both Lahaul and Spiti valley, it all will depend on whether Rohtang and Kunzum pass are open or not. Even if they are, it will most probably be in the last few days of May. If you were traveling before 20th of May, then you will only cover Spiti valley and not Lahaul.
Spiti Valley Temperature in May
During day, the temperature will remain around 15 degrees Celsius. You will be warm enough standing in the sun but will immediately feel the chill the moment you get in the shade. Temperature at nights will remain between 0 to 5 degrees Celsius. Please note though that this is the temperature in Spiti valley and not on other places on circuit like Kinnaur valley.
Availability of Public Transport
The daily bus from Shimla to Kaza remains operational all 12 months except for peak winter. The Manali to Kaza bus however will not be operational in May; but you may get shared cabs from Manali after the road has been cleared. The itinerary I suggested above is completely doable by public transport. The bus form Shimla to Kaza travels on the circuit and daily so all that you need to do is board that bus daily and get off at a place of your liking. For more details on how you can plan a trip to Spiti valley by public transport, please read How to Travel to Spiti by Bus and Shared Taxis and Frequency of Bus Service in Spiti Valley.
Road Conditions of Spiti Valley in May
How will the road conditions be? To be honest, road conditions in Spiti are always bad so you best not get your hopes high in that aspect. Until Narkanda and Rampur, road will be smooth enough however will start to deteriorate after that. After Jeori, the road will start to turn in to a nightmare and the worst patch will be between Reckong Peo and Pooh.
Also read: What to See in Spiti Valley
From Peo to Nako, the road is actually quite good and will be just about average between Nako and Kaza. The stretch between Karchham and Chitkul is quite bad and broken. Road towards Mud Village is a dirt trail but not that bad and OK to drive on. Kibber, Komik, Langza and Hikkim are all remote villages and roads to these villages are completely dirt trails. Your worst nightmare however is the stretch between Manali and Kaza. It is nothing but a long series of water crossing, slush and a badly damaged road that will probably one of the worst you have ever been on.
Acute Mountain Sickness in Spiti Valley
Will acute mountain sickness be a problem? In all probability no since you will be starting from Shimla. Mountain sickness becomes a concern when the gain in altitude is sudden but in this case, you will be gradually ascending in terms of height so may not face any signs of AMS in Spiti at all. Second factor is that the places where most people suffer from AMS, like Chandratal, will not be accessible in April anyways. For more details on what AMS is and what its symptoms are, please read How to Handle Acute Mountain Sickness in Spiti.
What to See in Spiti Valley in May
Most of the valley is open for tourists in the month of May; and you should be able to visit almost all of the tourist attractions. How many places can you cover depends entirely on how many days you have in hand and your mode of travel. The only area that may remain out of bound is the Manali Kaza route and Chandratal but rest all can be included in your itinerary. I will break the information down by the major tourist towns en route; listing by places in Kinnaur Valley, Pin Valley, Spiti Valley and on Manali Kaza route.
Kinnaur Valley in May
- Shimla and Narkanda in May: Both these towns will be open in the month of May. Weather will be pleasant at night and warm during day. Road condition around both these places is good. Hatu Peak at Narkanda is definitely worth visiting.
- Sarahan in May: Sarahan too will be open for tourists in the month of May. Weather here will be pleasant during day and a bit cold at night. The Bhimakali temple and Bird sanctuary here are worth visiting.
- Sangla in May: The town of Sangla will remain open in May. Weather will be pleasant during day and cold at night. The road between Karchham and Sangla is a bit bad at some places.
- Chitkul in May: The road from Sangla to Chitkul is a mix of bad and good but you will be able to reach Chitkul easily. Natural beauty and the tranquility of the place is what makes Chitkul worth visiting and including in your itinerary.
- Kalpa in May: Kalpa in fact remains open for tourists throughout the year except for some days in winter when heavy snowfall may block the road between Reckong Peo and Kalpa. In the month of May however, you can easily reach Kalpa. The view of majestic Kinner Kailash peaks is what makes this town a great destination to visit.
Pin Valley in May
Pin Valley remains open and accessible in the month of May. To get here, you will have to take the diversion at Attargo Bridge which falls a little after Dhankar. A board marks the diversion and it will be a bit hard to miss actually. Mud Village is the place where you will find accommodation in Pin Valley. The 30 odd kilometers long road from Attargo to Mud Village is in a bad shape and it will easily take you 2 hours to complete the journey.
Spiti Valley in May
- Nako, Tabo and Dhankar in May: All these three towns fall while on the way to Kaza and they will all be open. Accommodation will be available at all three places.
- Kaza in May: The town of Kaza is the headquarters of Spiti valley and this small town in fact remains busy throughout the year. If you arrived here in May, you will find plenty of tourists around and will easily find a place to stay.
- Kibber /Komik / Langza / Hikkim: These are some of the remote villages of Spiti valley and are very scenic. If you have time, then definitely stay for a day in Kaza; and explore these tiny hamlets. Accommodation in these villages is available in form of paying guest only.
Kaza to Manali in May
The route from Kaza to Manali usually opens by Mid may each year and this too is highly dependent on the weather. If you went in early May, you will not be able to see this part of the circuit. If your trip was towards later part of the month, you may be able to include it in your itinerary.
Kunzum Pass in May
Pretty much the same deal as Manali Kaza route. In fact, the opening of Manali to Kaza road depends on the opening of Kunzum Pass. It usually is open by May end but may get delayed to early June if there was too much snow at the top of the pass.
Chandratal in May
The road from Kunzum Pass to Chandratal gets cleared only after the Manali Kaza route is declared open. And that is why the camp sites here do not get operational until early June. Kunzum Pass is freed of snow in towards Mid May and then BRO takes another couple of weeks to make Chandratal accessible.
For a complete list of all must visit places in Spiti Valley, please read Tourist Attractions in Spiti Valley & Its Vicinity.
What to Do in Spiti Valley in May
The entire drive on the Spiti circuit is in fact an adventure activity. Apart from visiting all the other mentioned places, trekking is another activity that you can indulge yourself in. There are some great trails from Chitkul, Pin Valley and Kaza that you can venture upon if you had the time. Night skies are a sight for sore eyes in Spiti and if you had even the slightest of interest in photography, you would love to get some great night captures of milky way and star trails.
Festivals in Spiti Valley in May
For complete and detailed description of festivals of Spiti; including the dates when these are celebrated, please read Festivals in Spiti Valley – A Colorful Celebration of Life
Spiti Valley trek in May
I am not really into trekking myself so cannot give much of an advice on the topic. A lot of trek organizers are however available in Shimla, Manali and Kaza; and depending upon your own choice, you can venture upon any of the trails. Chitkul, Sangla, Pin Valley and Kaza are some of the most popular starting points of great treks in Spiti. In fact, even if the road to Chandratal was not yet open, you can still contact a tour guide in Kaza and do a couple of days long trek to Chandratal.
Petrol Pumps in Spiti
Fuel is not really a problem in Spiti Valley. From Shimla till Reckong Peo, you will continue coming across gas stations at regular interval. After Peo, the next petrol pump is in Kaza so do not forget to get a tankful done here. There is no fuel available between Kaza and Manali too but a tankful at Kaza is enough to last the journey.
Car or Motorcycle
Whether you plan the journey by car or motorcycle is entirely a personal choice. Both are equally good and it all depends on what you enjoy more. The only thing to keep in mind is that if you were bringing a car, ensure that it has good ground clearance. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a 4×4 but good GC is must; otherwise you risk the underbelly of your car hitting the ground at several places.
In terms of a motorcycle, you should remember that a trip to Spiti will last at least 7 to 10 days. So you will be carrying plenty of luggage and will be riding for 6 to 8 hours daily. Chose a motorcycle that is comfortable for long rides and makes it easy easy to rope the luggage on. If you were traveling with a pillion then chose a larger engine motorcycle like RE 350 or 500 CC. If you were coming on a smaller engine bike like 150CC, then please travel solo and as light as possible.
Get your Vehicles Ready
Be it a car or motorcycle that you are traveling by, the most important thing to remember is to get your vehicles ready. Mechanics on Spiti circuit are not a common occurrence; and even a small problem can really cause upset to your plans and become a pain. A trip to Spiti is going to be challenging not just for you but your vehicle as well. Get it serviced well in advanced and then ride / drive around for a week before the trip to ensure that everything is working fine. Repair or remove anything that seems dicey. Take a look at the articles below to read in details on how to prepare your vehicle and what spares to bring.
Until Reckong Peo, you will keep coming across several towns where mechanics are available. Once you cross Reckong Peo, the next mechanic will only be available in Kaza. There is no mechanic available between Kaza and Manali as well. At all these places though, you can only to get some minor fixes done. For any major problem, you will have to bring your vehicle back to Reckong Peo, Shimla or Manali.
Clothing to wear in Spiti valley in May
When you pack your clothes for a Spiti trip, the trick is to pack them in layers. What I mean by this is to bring clothes that can easily be worn on top of one another; and are neither too heavy or warm, nor too light. In the month of May, the weather and temperature of the valley will change depending on where you were and what time of the day. Mornings will be cold, days warm, evenings cold again and nights will get freezing. You will feet hot standing in the sun and will feel cold in the shade. So the idea is to get clothes that you can adjust in layers according to the temperature. If you brought all heavy woolens then you will just be feeling hot all the time.
Your regular cottons, some light woolens, a heavy windproof and warm jacket and a pair of gloves would suffice for the trip really. If it makes you feel better, pack a pair of thermals as well but you wouldn’t really need it unless you were riding a bike. Ensure that your jacket also has a hood to it that can cover your head, face and neck. If not, then pack a warm cap and muffler as well.
This is what you should be packing.
- A heavy windproof jacket
- Cap or Hat if your jacket did not have a hood to cover your head
- Pair of thermals
- Plenty of Cottons
- Light woolens
- Regular Sports or trekking shoes
- Woolen Socks
For a more details version of this information, please read Cloths for Spiti Trip – What to Pack
Other Items to Pack
Some of the other items that you may need are as below.
- Sunblock lotion with highest SPF that you can find
- Lip Balm
- Nasal Drops
- Pain Relief Spray
- Toilet Paper
Camping in Spiti Valley
If you were planning to go camping, then you can do that as well in Spiti. Campsites are available at Sangla, Rakcham, and Chitkul in Sangla Valley; and then at Chandratal and Batal in Spiti. As you drive through, you will notice camps at several other places as well en route; but the ones I mentioned are the most common camping grounds. If you were bringing in your own gear, then you can pitch your own tent too but please do not do it in the middle of nowhere. Camp near an existing campsite or near a local Dhaba. You can pay the locals a small fee to give you a spot to camp. The villages of Kibber, Komik, Langza, Hikkim, and Pin Valley are the most popular self-camping sites.
Spiti Valley in May
And that pretty much is all that you need to know about visiting Spiti Valley in the month of May. I hope the information above was of help. If you have any further questions; or need any further details; please feel free to ask in comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.