I recently received an email from someone enquiring about camping options in Spiti so thought of posting some information on the topic.
Spiti is definitely a great place to camp however the options in terms of camping sites are severely limited. There is only once place where you can find a camping site in all of Spiti and that is Chandra Taal. However, if you have your own gear camping gear, mentioned below are the sites where you can set it up. For the sake of this article, I am going to assume that you are starting from Shimla and circle your way through Spiti to Manali.
Shimla: There is neither a site nor any logic of looking to camp in Shimla. It is really a residential city now more than a tourist destination. While you are in Shimla, stay at a hotel and prepare for your trip.
Narkanda: Great site to camp if you are carrying your own equipment. There is no camping site here but there are ski slopes for which the town is famous and they make a great spot for camping if you have the equipment. You will have to walk a little, approx a kilometer or so in order to find the spot. Ask any of the locals and they can guide you.
Sarahan: A little off the main route but a must visit town. You will not find a good spot to camp within the village but there are several places where you can do so on the road that goes from Jeori to Sarahan. Once again, you will not find a camping site and will have to bring your own gear.
Sangla: Lots of places where you can camp right next to the river. It is however advisable to find a spot where there is a house nearby. Most of the land here is owned by the locals and you may be trespassing on someone else’s property. Find a spot where there is a house nearby, speak to the owner and camp with their permission. You may also have to pay off a little money as rent for the night.
Chitkul: My favorite place to camp. Same thing that I mentioned for Sangla applies here but it is far better in terms of camping than Sangla primarily for two reasons, one is that it is a smaller village and you will find more secluded places to camp between Sangla and Chitkul, second it is far more beautiful than Sangla.
Nako: This village looks like in the middle of nowhere. Plenty of places to camp. Dig anywhere you want; no one around to ask however it is advised that you camp near the village, maybe a little on the outskirts.
Tabo: Not advised to look for a camping site here. If you are breaking your journey in Tabo, stay in a hotel.
Dhankar: Not really a place to stay so just visit the monastery and move on but if you intend to stay for the night, look for a site closer to Dhankar Lake to camp. Ask the locals around and they can guide you.
Kaza: Do not look for a camping site here, you won’t find any. Stay in a hotel while at Kaza.
Chandra Taal: Best place to camp. Do not however camp without speaking to one of the camping sites owners first. All the camping sites here pay some money to the villagers nearby to run their business so you may run into trouble if you did not speak to one of the locals first. Best choice is to drive all the way on the road that leads to Chandra Taal, speak to one of the camp sites there and they can assist you in setting up your camp right next to Chandra Taal.
These are just some places that are suitable to camp, places where most people break their journeys and stay for the night. Fact however remains that you can find a spot anywhere you like right, next to the road. It is however better that you do not do so and rather stay close to one of the villages.