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.
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.
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.
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 is only at either Rohtang Pass or at Kunzum Pass. Snow at rest of the places in Spiti and places on the way would already have melted by this month.
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 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 to Nako – 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
Spiti Valley Weather in May
Pleasant and warm is what will described Spiti valley weather 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
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.
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.
Chandratal in May
This will be the greatest disadvantage of visiting Spiti valley in May. Manali Kaza route will open by late May and camps at Chandratal only become operational towards early June. Traveling in May will mean that you may have to keep Chandratal out of your itinerary which in itself is one of the greatest attractions of this trip.
Also read: Is Spiti Valley Safe to Travel
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 and there will also not be any shared cabs plying on the route as well. 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.
Spiti Valley in May
I hope the information above on visiting Spiti valley in May 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.