Spiti Valley in February, the very idea would have sounded crazy about 10 or 15 years ago. Places like Spiti and Ladakh at that time were considered off limits in winter; and getting there as impossible. Much however has changed in last decade. With recent boost in tourism and these lesser known Himalayan regions coming to light; people have now started to visit here during winter as well. Even I have been to Spiti once before in January and now planning to go again in February next year. And to be quite honest, I liked Spiti more in winter than in summer season. With several feet of snow all around, it turns into a wondrous white that will leave you dazzled and wishing to stay for a bit longer.
With that being said, life in Spiti in winter is not that easy. Ask the locals around and they would give anything to be anywhere but here. The weather of Spiti in February can prove troublesome at least, if you were not prepared for it. There are several things that you must be aware of and plan for well in advance if being in Spiti in February is on your list. What these things are; and how you can best plan your trip to Spiti in winter; is what I will be discussing in this article.
I will break this article in three parts. First I will mention a few necessary tips on visiting Spiti valley in February; followed by a recommended itinerary; and then some advantages and disadvantages in the end. If after reading the article you have any other questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section towards the bottom of this page.
Is Spiti valley open in February?
Contrary to common belief, Spiti valley actually remains open throughout the year. There are two routes that connect the valley with rest of the country; one is via Shimla and other one via Manali. If you went to Spiti via Manali, then within a short distance of about 200 kilometers, you will be crossing two high altitude passes on the way; both of which are notorious for receiving some really high amounts of snow each year. The passes of Rohtang and Kunzum La remain snowed out completely throughout the winter season; due to which, Manali Kaza route is open only from late May till Mid-October.
On the other hand, the road from Shimla to Kaza does not have even a single high altitude pass in between. Traveling a total of about 400 kilometers, the ascent is gradual and spread over a 2 to 3 day of journey. Hence this road remains open for all 12 months. There could be an occasional roadblock due to heavy snowfall somewhere along the route; but authorities usually clear it just as soon they are able to.
So yes, Spiti valley remains open in February but in much tougher conditions. It is off-season in terms of tourism so do not expect a normal regular vacation. A trip here in winter is going to be different and difficult.
Book your Stay in Advance
This would be the first thing to do and your entire trip will actually depend on it. February as I mentioned above is off season in Spiti valley so there aren’t many hotels and guest houses functional. So before you think about visiting here, you must call a hotel here in advance and confirm your stay. This is actually beneficial for both the parties. As a tourist, you would then know where you are planning to stay; and would have your peace of mind. The hotel owner too would then have some time to prepare for your arrival. They will be able to make necessary arrangements in time; like getting your room ready and keeping the kitchen well stocked.
This would actually apply not just for Spiti valley but also for other places en route like Narkanda, Kalpa, Nako, Tabo, Dhankar etc. Just give the hotels a call a few days in advance and confirm your stay with them.
Keep your Expectations Low
Life in Spiti valley in winter gets tough, basic and a bit costly. Hence you as a tourist too will have to keep your expectations a bit low. Fresh raw vegetables at this time of the year are scarce in the valley and the locals stock up for several weeks altogether. At some of the places, you may have to stay at very basic and simple guest houses or even as paying guests. Your stay no doubt will be comfortable and warm; but do not expect a five star hotel kind of treatment. Food provided too will be very basic but delicious. Option to eat out too will be severely restricted and you may have to live with whatever your host is putting on the table, whether you like it or not.
No Running Water
Spiti is very cold in winter, everyone knows that. But did you know that it actually gets so cold that even the water freezes in the pipes? Yes that is correct and it also means that there will be no running water. You will be provided hot water but in limited quantity and in buckets; which you will have to use very conservatively. And yes, it also means that you may have to go without a shower for a few days. So if that is something you can’t do, better give up the idea of winter trip to Spiti.
What is a dry pit? It is a hole dug in the ground that you will have to squat over to do your morning business. Something to consider and give a thought before you go. There will be absolutely no running water in toilets as well.
Also Read: Bus Service in Spiti Valley
No Electricity in Spiti in February
There is a huge chance that you may have to go without electricity. Sometimes the weather can turn extreme and the valley remains without power for weeks altogether. It would be wise to carry a power bank during this trip and keep it charged. In case you ended up in a place without any power, you will at least have some way to keep your phones working. If you are into photography then it would be wise to bring a spare battery along. Cold weather tends to drain the battery faster and there also may not be any electricity available to charge it again.
Shimla to Kaza in February
This is the only way that you can plan your trip. You will have to go from Shimla to Kaza and return the same way. If the road was open and weather favorable, then you may even drive till Losar but that is as far as you can go. There is absolutely no way that you can include Manali stretch in your itinerary so keep it out.
Chandratal Lake in February
Chandratal remains closed in the month of February. The road leading across Kunzum Pass remains snowed out and there is also no accommodation available at the lake. I highly doubt that you can even do a trek to the lake in February. The area remains buried under several feet of snow and it is way too risky and dangerous to head in that direction.
Sightseeing in Spiti Valley in February
In terms of sightseeing, there are a few places that you will have to remove from your itinerary. Chandratal will be the first one that I mentioned above. Kunzum Pass and the entire Manali Kaza stretch will be next. You may be able to visit the villages of Kibber, Komik, Langza, Hikkim etc in February but it will entirely depend on how much the snow on the road is. Do not attempt in your own vehicle and rent a local 4×4 vehicle from Kaza for this purpose. Driving on your own to these villages will be a bit risky in winter; so have a local driver take you there instead. Pin Valley remains open too in February. Chitkul however is another place that you may have to remove because the road from Karchham to Chitkul gets closed in winter.
Keep Buffer Days in Itinerary
This is actually advised irrespective of the time of your travel but becomes of utmost importance when it is a winter trip you are talking about. Spiti valley in February means that it can snow anytime and anywhere on the route. Even the roads around Shimla can sometimes get closed if it snowed too much. It has happened in the past that tourists were stuck in Spiti or Kinnaur for a few days because of all the snow; and had to be airlifted out of there.
So while you are drafting your itinerary for this trip, ensure that you are keeping at least 2 to 3 days as buffer. Do not tie yourself down to strict timelines. That way, in case you got stuck somewhere for a couple of days, you would at least be able to afford it without anything going wrong back home in your absence.
Inform your Folks
This is actually in continuation with the point above. 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.
Though there are ATMs in Spiti valley, their functionality and availability of cash is highly questionable in the months of winter. And it actually applies for places in Kinnaur valley as well. So ensure that you are carrying enough cash to last for a few days. Do the calculation keeping in mind that even if you got stuck somewhere, then you have enough funds to last for a while.
Do not Plan by Public Transport
Even though the daily bus from Shimla to Reckong Peo; and Peo to Kaza remains available in winter as well, this service tends to get suspended during late January and February. Reason is of course the heavy amount of snow on the road which poses a risk to the safety of the passengers. If you were not traveling by your own vehicle and planning to rely on public transport then a better choice would be to postpone your tip until April at earliest.
Spiti Valley Weather in February
Extremely cold, harsh, dry and unforgiving are the words that describe the weather of Spiti valley in February. You will be traveling through a weather that you probably have never faced in your life before and you must be prepared for it; both mentally and physically. It will be snow all around with Sun gone missing for days altogether. Be sure that you are ready to face some extreme temperatures. If cold bothers you and you tend to fall sick in winters than Spiti valley is not a place for you.
Spiti valley temperature in February
Temperature of Spiti in February remains below freezing point. At an average, temperature at night will be around -25 degrees Celsius and can even go lower than that. Sun will remain missing for several days and even during day, it will still be freezing all around. Temperature at noon will remain around -10 degrees Celsius.
Winter Clothes for Spiti in February
Now keeping in mind the kind of weather I described above, you will need to ensure that you pack all woolens and your warmest clothes. Two things you will need to keep in mind; first is that your clothes are capable of keeping you warm in freezing temperatures. Second is that they are windproof.
Good thermals are a must, followed by both light and heavy woolens. A good quality, heavy, windproof and waterproof jacket will be your best friend. Ensure that your jacket has a hood to cover your neck and head as well. Waterproof warm gloves, woolens socks, muffler, possibly waterproof shoes, sunglasses are some of the other accessories. You will also have to pack a good sunscreen lotion, cold creams, lip balms and some basic medicines for stomach ache, fever and cold.
Also read: Clothes for Spiti trip: what to Pack?
Lahaul Spiti in February
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 February, you will be only visiting Spiti valley from Shimla side and coming back the same way. Lahaul valley remains cut off entirely during February after Rohtang, Kunzum and Baralacha La get snowed out. So for a winter trip, we are only talking about visiting Spiti and not Lahaul.
Get your Vehicle Ready
It is not just you who will be under stress while traveling through Spiti but also your vehicle. Availability of mechanic is anyways limited here but in winters it gets even rare. You must get your vehicle ready and reduce all risks of a possible breakdown anywhere. If your vehicle ditches you somewhere, you will be stuck in the middle of nowhere; either looking for a mechanic or to get it towed. 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.
Start a Bit Late in the Day
Do not start first thing in the morning for 2 reasons. First is that the any snow on the roads would have turned into ice and would be slippery early in the morning. Second is that even if there is no snow on the road, there would definitely be some black ice. In both the situations, it would be best to wait for the sun to come up before starting your travel for the day. Some sunlight would ensure that any black ice present on the roads would have melted away. If you gave it at least a couple of hours into the day before starting, some locals vehicles would already have traveled on the roads. This would break the frozen icy sheets of the road and make them slightly safer to drive on.
Be Confident of your driving Skills
It will depend on the weather but in all probability, a trip to Spiti in February will definitely involve driving through some light to heavy snow on the roads. Hence, before starting your journey, you got to be very confident of your driving skills. It doesn’t matter whether you were in a car or on a motorcycle, only plan this trip when you are either good at the wheel yourself; or have someone else in the group who is. If you do not have a lot of driving or riding experience; or do not know whether you will be able to handle the roads then it would be best to cancel the trip for another time.
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.
Petrol Availability in Spiti Valley
You will not face any problem in terms of fuel until Reckong Peo. After Peo though, the next petrol pump is in Kaza which may not remain operational sometimes in winter. Just to be on a safer side though, get a tank full done at Reckong Peo and carry some spare fuel along. If the fuel station at Kaza wasn’t working then you can use it for your return journey till Reckong Peo.
Snowfall in Spiti Valley
It can happen anytime in Spiti valley in February. You can be on the road traveling when you may encounter a heavy snowfall; or you may be in Kaza and the snow may block the roads completely and hence trapping you in the valley for a few days. On a positive side though, people who do want to witness a live snowfall, rest assured that you will definitely get to see plenty of it.
Manali to Kaza in February
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 till the small village of Losar. After Losar starts the climb for Kunzum Pass which will be blocked completely.
Also Read: How to Pan a Trip to Pin Valley?
Spiti Valley Trek in February
If you are into trekking then yes, there are a lot of tour organizers that arrange for winter treks in Spiti valley. It will entirely depend on what kind of trek you want to do; and what is is that you want to see. The most popular kind is trekking in Spiti valley from Kaza and attempt to catch a glimpse of snow leopard. For this, you can contact any tour organizers in Kaza itself but you will have to keep aside about 3-4 days for this. The route usually involves trekking around the villages of Kibber and Komik and make camp there for a few days.
Spiti Valley Itinerary in February
After listing all the points above, let me now suggest an example of an itinerary that you can follow for this trip.For the sake of this itinerary, I will assume that you are starting from Delhi. If you were however coming from a different place, then only the journey for first and last day will be different; rest of the details will still apply.
A minimum of 9 days is what I will recommend for this trip. You will be traveling through some extreme weather and there is absolutely no way that you can rush this trip.
- Delhi to Narkanda
- Narkanda to Kalpa
- Kalpa to Tabo
- Tabo to Kaza
- Kaza to Kibber / Komik / Langza / Hikkim to Kaza
- Kaza to Nako
- Nako to Kalpa / Sangla
- Kalpa / Sangla to Shimla
- Shimla to Delhi
Start a bit early on Day 1 and make it all the way till Narkanda from Delhi; this will be a journey of about 10 hours in total. But if you found snow on the roads around Shimla, then you may even have to break this day somewhere in between. Second day you will be reaching the small apple town of Kalpa and then travel to Tabo from there on Day 3. You will be crossing the high altitude village of Nako on the way. You will definitely encounter snow here so drive carefully. Malling Nallah is also right after Nako and you will have to practice extreme caution getting across a frozen Nallah.
You will reach Kaza on Day 4 and spend Day 5 exploring the nearby villages of Kibber, Komik, Langza and Hikkim etc. As I mentioned above, there is always a ton of snow on the roads towards these villages so better would be to hire a local cab for your trip to these places. On Day 6, you will reach back Nako and spend the night there.
Now on Day 7, you can either go back to Kalpa and break the journey there; or a better choice would be to travel a little ahead and reach Sangla. All this however will depend on whether or not the road to Sangla is open. You will have to ask the locals on the way and then make the decision on where you want to spend the night. On Day 8, you will travel back to Shimla from Sangla and then return home on Day 9.
Also Read: How to Prepare your Car for Spiti Trip?
Why visit Spiti Valley in February?
Now with all of the above said and done, question that comes to mind is why a person should visit Spiti valley in February? I mean it all sounds difficult and risky so why go at all? A trip to Spiti valley in February 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.
Challenges of visiting Spiti Valley in February
After why you should go, let me also note down a few challenges you will face while visiting Spiti in February.
- 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 February?
Keeping all of the above information in mind, yes you can definitely plan a trip to Spiti valley in February. Just practice the caution that I suggested above and it is going to be a fun trip. I hope the information above was of help. If you have any other questions; or need any further details; please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.