What to see in Chitkul? If you are planning a trip to this tiny but beautiful hamlet, this question would definitely have crossed your mind. And if I am to answer it in two words, I will say ‘natural beauty’. When visiting a place like Chitkul, you really need to be very clear of what your expectation is and what Chitkul has to offer. Otherwise, you will just end up getting disappointed. In this article, I will talk about the best places to visit in Chitkul and some other tourist things that you can be a part of here.
For an overview, Chitkul is a small village located about 250 kilometers from Shimla. The word ‘village’ should really be noted here because that is what it is, just a group of about 50+ houses and a few hotels. There are no markets here and no fancy restaurants to eat at. But what really sets Chitkul apart is the stunning natural beauty which is among the best that you will get in all of Himachal.
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The landscape and the view you get here in Chitkul is a little similar to what you see from Mudh Village in Pin Valley, only greener. The entire setting of the village looks like a wallpaper or straight out of a painting. There is really no long list of tourist places in Chitkul but that is exactly why you should visit here. Confused? Let me explain.
Places to visit in Chitkul
Please note that in this article, I am only going to provide information on tourist spots in Chitkul village and the nearby areas. If you want to get details like how to reach here, public transport and where to stay, I will urge you to read How to Plan a Trip to Chitkul – A Complete Travel Guide.
After you have arrived in Chitkul, below is how you can spend your time sightseeing. Let us first talk about the tourist attractions in Chitkul itself.
Chitkul is beautiful and it is really hard to find the correct words to describe its scenic beauty. The first time I was here, I absolutely fell in love with the place and it instantly became my favorite hill station. After that, I have been to Chitkul several times and I still cannot get enough of it. The road ends at Chitkul making it the last village on the border. After this, it is just the mighty mountains ahead of you.
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Imagine this; a small village surrounded by hills on 3 sides and a road leading out of it from the 4th. A river flowing down the hills and the sun coming up slowly, lighting the skies on fire; this is Chitkul for you.
The peaceful setting of the village is like none other, making it perfect to walk by the river and do some soul searching. The only sound you will hear here is of the wind, the water, and the birds. It is perfect to sit down in the sun with a cup of tea in your hand and just relax.
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Chitkul (and the entire Sangla Valley actually) is on the banks of Baspa River, due to which it is also known as Baspa Valley. The river flows down the hills into the village of Chitkul and then runs for about 40 kilometers before merging into Sutlej River near Karchham. The upper slopes of the valley along the river are marked with dense forests of pine and Oak; where the lower slopes serve as farming fields to the villagers.
Mathi Devi Temple
This temple is believed to be over 500 years old and dedicated to Mathi Devi. As per the mythology, the goddess traveled a long distance before finally deciding to settle in Chitkul. After her arrival, the village prospered for which she is worshipped till date. The temple complex has three shrines in it and all three of them are beautifully built.
Hindustan ka Aakhri Dhaba
I believe every last village on the border has this dhaba. I know I have seen another Hindustan ka Aakhri Dhaba in Mana Village as well, in Uttarakhand. In Chitkul it is located at a very scenic spot and will definitely find its place in every list of places to visit in Chitkul. The problem, however, is that their menu is a bit limited so do not go expecting a heavy and hearty meal. Just climb down the stair to the temple, have a cup of tea and some snacks while enjoying a great view.
A little ahead of the Mathi Devi temple is the Chitkul fort, which looks more like a watchtower actually. It is also the tallest building in the village; other than the newly coming up hotels of course. It is a three-storey structure that towers over the village; and is referred to as ‘quila’ locally. It is also a shrine but I think it is referred to as fort or ‘quila’ due to its tower-like structure.
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Hydro Flour Mill
There is a hydro flour mill located in the village. I agree it is not really a tourist attraction but still, something interesting to see. Ask any of the villagers and they will point you in its direction. The water from the Baspa River is used to power the mill and grind wheat flour.
The houses in Chitkul are built in Kinnauri vernacular style of architecture out of wood and are really interesting to observe. They are all built in a different style and you will not find any two houses of the same detail or scale. Like the houses, even the Mathi Devi temple and the fort have some amazing architectural style. The houses are even positioned differently; with their fronts in different directions; some facing the road, others the sun and a few facing the temple.
It is a school so not really a tourist spot but the location of it is really amazing due to which I added it in the list of places to visit in Chitkul. It is really a ‘school with a view’ and made me wish if I had the chance to study here. Watching the kids here, studying, playing, running to their homes really reminds you of simpler times when our younger generations weren’t more attracted to an iPhone rather than playing in an open field.
School in Chitkul, it even rhymes.
Places to Visit near Chitkul
Listed above were the tourist attractions in Chitkul itself but the list does not really end here. There are numerous other places that are worth visiting around the village or on your way here. Let us now take a look at some of the best tourist places near Chitkul.
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About 20 kilometers after Karcham and 20 kilometers before Chitkul is the town of Sangla. This place is like a bigger and modernized version of Chitkul. The buildings, houses, natural beauty, landscape, vistas and very much similar to Chitkul, but with an ATM, more shops and better facilities.
A lot of people chose to stay in Sangla because it offers greater options in terms of accommodation. There are several good hotels and campsites in Sangla that you can stay at. The meadows of Sangla on the banks of Baspa River also present an astounding view. You will notice these views as you approach Sangla or move out of the town towards Chitkul. For more details, please read How to Plan a Trip to Sangla.
Located 2.5 kilometers outside of Sangla is the small village of Kamru. The village was once the capital of the Bushahr principality. But now is best known for a tower-like structure at its highest point, known as Kamru Fort. The fort is believed to be almost a thousand years old and was built by Lord Badrinath.
It is said that the fort is, in fact, a shrine that is home to 33 crores (330,000,000) gods and goddesses. Inside the fort campus, there is another shrine dedicated to Kamakhya Devi that is said to have been brought here from Assam.
Bering Nag Temple
This is a famous temple located in Sangla. It is also known as Nages God temple and is one of the most visited ones in Sangla. It is an ancient temple dedicated to Nages God, Lord Jagas, believed to be a form of Lord Shiva.
The temple is located a short walk down from the main market and is located almost at the bank of Baspa River. The short walk passes through a village with traditional and small backyard apple gardens. Every year in the monsoon season, (August / September), a grand even ‘Fulaich fair’ is held here that is attended by thousands of Kinnauri people.
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Karchham Dam and Lake
The road towards Sangla and Chitkul bifurcates from the main highway near Karchham. This place is best known for a huge dam built over the mighty Sutlej River. It is the first thing that you will see while going towards Chitkul.
The reason why I am adding this in the list here is because of the view it presents. It is a huge dam on river Sutlej located near the town Karchham, and hence the name. The water accumulates between the mountains and turns in to a manmade lake creating a stunning view.
Sarahan is a small town located about 100 kilometers from Chitkul towards Narkanda and Shimla. It is one of the best-known tourist destinations of Himachal, known for its bird sanctuary and the Bhimakali Temple. If you were coming towards Chitkul, you must take some time out and drive towards Sarahan.
If possible, stay a night here and if not, then just take a short drive. From the main highway, visiting Sarahan and returning will take about 3 hours. For more details, please read How to Plan a Trip to Sarahan.
Kalpa is another one of the most famous destinations in Himachal. It is best known for the stunning view of the Kinner Kailash peaks that you get from here. It is located about 65 kilometers Chitkul towards Pooh. For more details, please read How to Plan a Trip to Kalpa.
Trekking in Chitkul
There are several treks leading out of Chitkul that you can venture on. These are fit for all kinds of trekkers, from an absolute beginner to the very experienced ones. Depending on the time you have in hand, you can either go on a short trek that will end in a day or plan a longer one lasting several days. Mentioned below is information on some of the best Chitkul treks.
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Nagasti ITBP Post
Nagasti ITBP Post is about 3-4 kilometers from Chitkul and is really an easy walk. You walk on a mostly straight path along the Baspa River to arrive at the check post and then return.
If you started from Chitkul after breakfast by 8 or 9 AM, you will easily make it to the post by 10 or 11 AM. Take a break, rest, have a discussion with the ITBP soldiers posted there, and head back to Chitkul to reach just in time for lunch.
Rani Kanda Meadows
This is where things really start to get interesting. Rani Kanda is a campsite that also serves as the base camp for Lamkhaga Pass trek that ends at Harsil, 25 kilometers from near Gangotri. This entire area is a beautiful meadow to pitch your tents and enjoy some stunning views.
The total distance from Chitkul to Rani Kanda is about 10 kilometers and will take you an entire day to reach. It is ideally a 2 days trek. You start from Chitkul, reach Rani Kanda, stay overnight, and return the next day.
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Rani Kanda is on the same route as the Nagasti ITBP Post. From Chitkul, you will first reach Nagasti, register yourself and then walk another 6-7 kilometers to Rani Kanda Meadows. There is another ITBP check post at Rani Kanda where you may be asked to register again. Please carry a valid government-issued identity card if going this way.
Lamkhaga Pass Trek
After getting interesting, now things will get challenging. After Rani Kanda, if you continued further, you will start climbing up the Lamkhaga Pass trek that ends at Gangotri.
At an altitude of 5,282 meters (17,320 ft), Lamkhaga Pass is one of the toughest treks in Himachal that connects Chitkul to Harsil in Uttarakhand. The trek is a fairly remote one and takes at least 10 days to complete. The pass is located very close to Indo – Tibetan border and a permit needs to be obtained from Reckong Peo in order to attempt the trek.
This trail is noted for several things including the easy walks along the Baspa River, snow-capped mountains all around, streams, waterfalls, Baspa glacier zone, Baspa Glacier Snout, Meadows, and small glacial lakes of Kyarkoti in Harsil valley. The best time to attempt it would be in May, June, September, or early October.
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Borasu Pass Trek
Borasu pass is a high altitude pass between high mountains that divide the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. At its summit, the elevation of the pass is 5,450 Meters. Yes, it is even higher than Lamkhaga Pass.
For this trek as well, you will reach Rani Kanda Meadows but take a different route after that. This trail will take you across Borasu Pass and will end at Har Ki Dun in Uttarakhand. On the way, you will also see the beautiful glacial lakes of Zhupkia and Morinda Taal.
The best time to do the trek is either in May or October. The total trekking distance will be around 64 kilometers and doable in 6-8 days.
Permits from Reckong Peo will be needed for this trek as well. Also, please note that this is a difficult trek and not suitable for beginners.
What to do in Chitkul
After places to visit in Chitkul, let us talk about what else can you do here. One word answer? Nothing. No, I really mean it. Well, not unless you ventured out on the treks I mentioned. If yes, then you are in for a lot of action but for a regular tourist, doing nothing is probably the best thing to do in Chitkul.
As I was saying earlier in the article, Chitkul is not a place where you come to do a ton of things like partying, shopping, eating out, or several adventure activities. For that, you go to a place like Shimla and Manali. But if some time in peace is what you need, then a place like Chitkul becomes your destination. You come here to slow life down a notch, feel every hour of the day, watch the sun come up and then go down, relax, and listen to the silence. You come to Chitkul to rejuvenate yourself.
With that being said, mentioned below are a few things that you can do without doing much in Chitkul.
It does not matter what kind of photographer you were. It does not matter if you were carrying a professional camera or just a cellphone one. While on a trip to Chitkul, you will find it hard to not click hundreds of pictures. Every turn of the road and the eye will present you with a sight memorable that you will definitely want to click.
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Enjoy the Night Skies
Another entry in the list of things to do in Chitkul will be to enjoy the skies at night; that is if you were able to find enough strength to crawl out of your blanket and come out in open. But if you did, then you will be greeted with a sky lit with countless stars; a view that city folks like you and I rarely get to see.
You can actually see the Milky Way with the naked eye here, thanks to the pollution-free skies. If you were into photography and were carrying a capable enough camera, you will have your fun clicking long exposures of Milky Way and star trails.
Camping in Chitkul
Last but not least, camping is something that a lot of people enjoy in the valleys of Kinnaur and you can too. There are several campsites in Chitkul, Sangla, and near Rakcham where you can go camping. If you were carrying your own camping gear, you can go self-camping as well but I would urge you to not do that in the middle of nowhere. Rather, speak to a local in Chitkul and pay them a small amount to give you a spot to pitch your tent.
Places to visit in Chitkul – Conclusion
I hope the information above on places to visit in Chitkul was 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.
“The landscape and the view you get here in Chitkul is a little similar to what you see from Mudh Village in Pin Valley, only greener.”
If going to Mudh is planned later on, should Chitkul be visited? Will be visiting Kalpa as well? So instead of Shimla-Chitkul go straight to Shimla-Kalpa if going to Mudh?
I meant similar only in terms of the mountain layout but the overall landscape is very different.