Imagine you enter a closet like Lucy did in Narnia and you find yourself in a land filled with mountains covered with fresh powder snow and there is no white witch to fight against. What if we tell you that instead of finding that magical closet all you have to do is board a vehicle and you are in the very same land, won’t that be one of the most enthralling experience of entire life.
If there has to be one destination in entire India which is not the easiest one but is the most satisfying than Spiti in dead of winter will be the one and only choice for that. November brings the snow and winter with it that stay till March hasn’t said good bye to the valley. It is the time when the very famous Manali-Rohtang Pass-Kunzum Pass- Kaza road is closed due to heavy snowfall. Every house, Hut, road, village, monastery and mountain dons a thick blanket of white cottony snow, which is as constant as the thin air of mountains. The snow is stretching as far as one can see never tell where the sky is coming down to meet the mountains.
For the entire four months of winter the temperature roams around -20 degree, not only small water streams but the Spiti river freezes while a very few of defiant streams tirelessly cut through the thick ice and snow bed, creating a surreal scene. The Manali-Rohtang-Kunzum-kaza is all closed due to heavy snow at the passes the only way Spiti can be accessed by is the ancient Hindustan-Tibet Highway going through Shimla-Kalpa-Kaza, which will be used to enter and exit the valley. Keeping in mind the high altitudes of Spiti we have created a comfortable 7-days itinerary for winter expedition to Spiti. Which will take us to some of the most remote villages of Spiti, the highest motorable village of Asia- Komic, the magnificent monastery of Ki, the enthralling Kibber village which is very famous for the rarest cat in the world, the gorgeous Snow Leopard and highest post office in Hikkim.
Day-1 Shimla to Sangla
The winter expedition to Spiti valley starts from the colonial summer capital of India, Shimla, state capital of Himachal Pradesh. The most famous hill station of India, Shimla is bustling with tourists when the snow comes down to pay a visit. The journey start around 7 in the morning from Shimla, take an overnight journey from Delhi or Chandigarh to reach Shimla early morning, or one can come day earlier and spend a day taking in the beautiful views of Shimla covered in snow.
Hitting the road from Shimla we pass through the famous towns of Kufri, Rampur Bushehr, Sarahan. From Rampur we take the road going with Sutluj river till we reach Karcham, from Here we take the road going right toward Sangla. Following the Bhabha river from Karcham we take on the road going to Sangla. The entire Bhabha valley is very beautiful. On the right we can see the mountains which work as natural border between Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. On left we can soak in the mesmerizing views of Kinnaur Kailash range. We take a night halt in Sangla.
Drive from Karcham to Sangla on snow laden, rock cut road is one of the major adventure of the trip.
Day-2 Sangla to Chitkul to Nako
It is totally worth to get out of warm and comfy bed to witness the magnificent sunrise, when the morning light falls on mountains setting a scene as if the entire valley and mountains are emitting gold. After having breakfast at Sangla we head to Chitkul ( this is totally dependent on weather and road condition, if road is blocked by snow we may not be able to make it to Chitkul), the famous last village of India. The gorgeous wide open valley of Bhabha river is pure magic and in winter the whole mountain range is covered with cottony snow.
From Chitkul we trace back the road till the Karcham and get back on the highway for Reckong Peo where we make a stop to fill our hungry bellies. From Reckong Peo we get views of majestic Kinnaur Kailash peak. After having our intake at Reckong Peo we continue further up to Spillow, which is the last point where we can connect to outer world and virtual world. Further ahead from Spillow only BSNL network works that to only calling no internet accessibility. Soaking in the views of snow laden mountains and sleepy villages hanging from the mountain cliffs, we make our way to Nako. On the way to Nako we pass by the confluence of Satluj and Spit rivers, the road is going on true left of Spiti River.
Nako is a small village nestled on mountain face, overlooking half frozen Spiti river. Nako is famous for its lake and the 360degree view of surrounding mountain ranges. We take shelter in a home stay for night.
Day-3 Nako to Tabo to Dhankar to Mud (Pin Valley) to Kaza
Early in the morning we cross the frozen Malling Nallah which is one of the most feared Nallah crossing on the way to Spiti. Once out of Malling we take the zig zag road going down to Chango village, which is very famous for its apple. In winter it is just a sleepy village with almost no movement. A little after we reach Sumdo, a tiny village with an army check post which marks the end of Kinnaur and start of Spiti. Passing through some small villages on the way to Tabo, we see a sign board saying Giu, a little village which is home to an 800 years old mummified monk, if road is cleared of which is most like to be open, we pay a visit to Giu monastery.
From Giu we make our way to Tabo, The Tabo monastery is one of the oldest one in region. Tabo is home to some 1000 year old meditation caves which are located right in front of the monastery on a mountain face. It is a 10 minute climb to caves. Taking our bit of enlightment at monastery we had further up to Dhankar, ancient capital of Spiti. The old Dhankar monastery is built on a mountain cliff, other than the monastery the view of confluence of Spiti and Pin from top of Dhankar is pretty amazing. We weather permits and we have enough time than we can our way toward Pin valley else we make our way directly to Kaza. Where we take a night halt in SoloYolo homestay with tasty food and comfy beds.
Day-4 Kaza to Langza , Hikkim, Komic and Back to Kaza
Today we do not have a long distance to cover so we have some leisure time. After having a delicious breakfast we take the zig zag road going up to Langza where a gigantic Buddha statue is to welcome us. After taking mandatory selfies with Buddha we head up to the highest village of Asia, Komic. The region of Langza is laden with fossils so keep an eye if you can find one. At Komic monastery we can see a stuffed snow leopard skin. From Komic we head back toward Langza and take a diversion going down to Hikkim village which is home to world’s highest post office. Spare some time to send postcard to loved ones from the highest post office. Once we are done with deed of postcards we make our way back to Kaza.
Day-5 Kaza to Gite via Kibber and Chicham and hike from Gite to Ki monastery
With leisure we get out of our comfy beds and finish our breakfast before heading toward Ki, Kibber, Chicham and Gite. The iconic monastery of Ki looks really beautiful in winter colours. Pay a visit to monastery and engulf with monks residing there for some words of wisdom. The road going up from Ki monastery will take us to Kibber village which is famous for being very frequented by snow leopards. The region surrounding the Kibber village is a perfect place to sight the elusive cat. 3 kilometers out of Kibber is a suspension bridge which connects Chicham village to Kibber, the bridge is said to be the highest suspension bridge of Asia. From Chicham we make our way for Gite to get a bird’s eye view of Ki monastery. There is a trail going down to Ki from Gite, if you believe in your legs and have some energy to spare than we can take the trail to Ki or we can trace our way back to kibber and then to Kaza.
Day-6 Kaza to Kalpa
On the penultimate day of trip we head back down toward Kinaaur tracing back the road we took to get to Spiti. Passing through Dhankar, Tabo, Sumdo, Nako, Reckong Peo we take it to Kalpa. Kalpa is a touristic village in summer but remains almost closed in winter due to heavy snowfall. Kalpa is a vantage point to observe the majestic Kinnaur Kailash range.
Day-7 Kalpa to Shimla
Getting down from Kalpa we follow the Indo-Tibetan highway to reach Shimla.