If you had suggested a trip to Spiti Valley with family to someone a decade ago, you would probably have probably received one of the two reactions. Either the person at the other end would have asked you where in the world Spiti Valley is or they would just have laughed at you and called you crazy.
Why? Well, the reason is behind the first reaction is that Spiti was largely unknown until some time ago. In fact, the tourism here was not even allowed till the late 90s. The reason behind the second reaction would be that it was definitely not considered a family place. The entire route was famous among bikers as Spiti Circuit and planning a family trip here was not deemed appropriate because of the challenging roads, harsh weather, and remoteness of the region.
Thankfully, such is not the case anymore. Tourism has been on increase in places like Ladakh and Spiti and with that, the pool of the kind of tourists also is increasing. It is now a place that gets considered for family vacations as well. What is more? I have even had people ask me whether they can visit Spiti for their honeymoon even.
So if you were wondering whether or not you can plan a family trip to Spiti Valley, the answer would be that yes you can. But there are a few things that you must keep in mind and prepare for, to ensure a safe and hassle-free journey.
How to visit Spiti Valley with Family
Spiti Valley is a high altitude cold desert and your entire preparation should be around this statement only. As you gain altitude, you reach a region that remains cold for all 12 months. The term ‘road’ here is just a relative one. You will travel on some of the toughest and narrowest roads you have ever been on in your entire life.
It is the least populated region of our country so there won’t be many people around. For the most part of your journey, you will be on your own. Something as simple as a flat tire here can ruin your day if you weren’t prepared.
Acute Mountain Sickness is Real
Kaza, the headquarters of Spiti Valley, is at an altitude of 3,810 meters (12,500 feet). Chandratal is at an altitude of 4,300 meters (14,100 ft). Of the two high altitude passes en route, Rohtang is at 3,980 meters (13,058 ft) and Kunzum La is at 4,590 meters (15,060 ft).
What am I getting at? The point I am trying to make here is that a trip to Spiti means you are bringing your body to altitudes that it has never been to before. So yes, the chances of altitude sickness are high and even more so at places like Chandratal.
For more details on what mountain sickness is, what its symptoms are and what can you do to avoid it, please read How to Handle Acute Mountain Sickness in Spiti Valley.
The rule is quite simple really. You cannot make this trip with a baby in your arms. The lungs of a baby of under 1 year of age are not mature enough to handle altitude sickness. So a journey with an infant or a toddler is a complete no.
But even with babies over 1 year, I will not suggest making this trip unless your child is at least 3-4 years old. This way, your child will at least be able to communicate with you if they weren’t feeling well. You won’t be guessing half of the times about why they were crying.
Secondly, if your kid was under 3-4 years old, they will just be a liability on the trip and you will be tending to their needs more than enjoying the journey. Spiti Valley is not going anywhere. Let your child grow a little and then plan it a year later.
For more information on this topic, please read Necessary Precautions for a Trip to Spiti Valley with Kids.
Consult a Doctor
If you were bringing your parents or any other elder member of the family along, please consult a doctor first. Do not go asking around or seeking answers to questions on the web. Talk to a doctor first and take their professional opinion. Once you have consulted your doctor and have their OK to travel to Spiti, please ensure that you are carrying all of your prescribed medicines on your trip to Spiti Valley with family.
For more details on this topic, please read Necessary Precautions for a Trip to Spiti Valley with Elders.
Plan between late May to September
You should plan your trip only between late May and September. Within this window as well, if you can plan in May, June or September, it would be even better because you are then removing the risk of the monsoon season. The weather in these months is very pleasant and your family will be able to enjoy the trip better. All the routes and roads remain open at this time so you will be able to explore all areas and make the most out of your journey.
Any before May or after September means that you are bringing your family to an extremely cold environment and may also not be able to cover all tourist areas. There are numerous incidents when tourists traveling to Spiti after September or before May were stuck in different places and had to be rescued by the authorities. Do not take the risk; it is simply not worth it.
For more details, please read When is the Best time to visit Spiti Valley.
A doctor will be able to advise on this better but if you are a heart patient or have respiratory ailments like Asthama, I will not recommend that you take the risk and travel to Spiti. There are numerous other places in India that are far more beautiful than Spiti Valley and that is where you should go.
In terms of kids as well, If your baby was born premature or has a heart or lung condition, it is highly advised that you do not bring them along on the journey or at least consult a doctor before you do so.
Carry some Basic Medicines Along
You should bring some basic medicines along like for headache, upset stomach, body ache, fever, flu, common cold, etc. A few band-aids, anti-septic lotion, nasal drops, and pain relief spray can be of huge help. Lip Balm, cold cream and moisturizer will be required as well.
Prepare for the Cold
No matter what time of the year you are planning your trip Spiti Family Trip in, you must prepare for cold weather during your trip. During the winter season, the temperature here drops down to -35 degrees Celsius. This should give you an idea of how cold things can get here.
The weather of Spiti is very unpredictable and the temperature can drop significantly without warning. I have seen snowfall in Spiti in late September as well and was stuck at Chandratal in 4 ft of snow for 3 days before we were able to move out.
During summer, days will be very warm and nights very cold and your packing should be sufficient to handle both kinds of weather. If traveling early or late in the season, you should prepare yourself to handle temperatures close to 0. For more details, please read What kind of Clothes to Pack for Spiti Valley.
Prepare for the Sun
The sun in Spiti is very harsh and can give some very serious sunburns. Find a sunblock lotion of the highest SPF and apply it regularly. Keep yourself covered and protect against the sun. This will apply both in the winter and summer seasons. Do not also forget to pack a good and light pair of sunglasses (especially in the winter season).
Start from Shimla
The importance of this cannot be stressed upon enough. You must start your trip from Shimla and end at Manali. Do not do it the other way around. By starting from Shimla, you are bringing down the chances of Acute Mountain Sickness to almost 0. The increase in altitude in this manner will be gradual and spread evenly over a few days.
On the other hand, if you went via Manali, then the increase is very sudden and too much for your body to handle. It is highly possible that your first day of the trip will be a very unpleasant one as your body tries to acclimatize. AMS is a condition that if turned serious can actually even be fatal so this is not a matter that should be taken lightly.
Take the Journey Slow
By this, I mean allowing your body time to acclimatize and not rushing anywhere in the journey. Do not go by distance and assume that you will be able to cover 400-500 kilometers in a day easily. The mountain roads take double the time to cover a distance than the plains. Keep your average distance between 100-150 kilometers per day; no more than that. Your average speed will come out to be no more than 20 kilometers per hour so plan our day and hours accordingly.
Do not stay at Chandratal
If possible, do not stat overnight at Chandratal and make cover it on a day’s journey from either Kaza or visit while on your way to Manali. Chandratal is a camping site and there is absolutely nothing here. It is also at a very high altitude and the temperature here drops down to 0 at night even in the months of May, June and July. If something was to go wrong here at night, you will be stuck with the nearest help at either Kaza or Manali.
Drink lots of water and keep sweet biscuits or chocolates to munch on while traveling. Avoid salties like chips as they tend to dehydrate your body. Eat a lot of fresh fruits and light food. Don’t overeat, especially before long drives.
Keep your child in Check
Exhaustion is one of the primary triggers of acute mountain sickness. If your kid was running and jumping around all the time, they will tire themselves, will run short of breath and may suffer from altitude sickness. Keep them under check and do not allow running around all the time.
Also, keep an eye for any symptoms of AMS in your kid. If your child suddenly starts acting up, complains of body pain, headache, throws up, refuses to eat or drink, you know they are suffering from altitude sickness.
Also Read: Which is the Best Car for Spiti Valley?
Do carry toilet rolls and Pee Safe (for ladies) while visiting Spiti Valley with family as it is not easy to get clean toilets always.
I am not really an advocate for booking hotels in advance. I would rather like to reach the destination, find a hotel per my liking, negotiate an on the spot deal and check-in. This, however, is better suited for a solo trip or with friends. When traveling with family, the last thing you want is to hop from one hotel to another after traveling the entire day. Do some research, read some reviews and see if you can book your hotel in advance.
Seek a Travel Agent
This is another thing that I usually do not recommend. In my opinion, It is always better to manage your trip on your own. But it doesn’t apply to everyone every time. If you aren’t too sure of the region, don’t have time to do research or feel that you may miss out a few things if you went on your own, then it wouldn’t hurt to contact a local travel agent and book him for your Spiti Family Trip. But yes, do a thorough search and book a reliable agent. You do not want to book just any random guy and have him ruin your trip.
Also Read: How to Prepare your Car for Spiti Valley?
Watch out for Shooting Stones
One of the things that happens a lot when you are traveling with family is to stop at every scenic spot and click pictures. While driving on the Spiti Circuit, take a look around; and make sure you are not stopping in a shooting stone area.
What is a shooting stone? In very simple words, it is a stone that falls from the mountain above on the road below. If anyone happens to be on the spot it fell, it will kill the person. In Spiti, there are a lot of shooting stone areas but fortunately, Army have them marked as such. If you read a board warning you of shooting stones, do not stop and continue driving.
Spiti Valley with Family – Conclusion
I hope the tips above on planning a safe trip to Spiti Valley with family were of help. If you have any questions; or need any other details; please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.