Spiti Valley 2016 travel log

It's only me at 5000 meters altitude — near Komic village.

Back in April 2016 my friend Kumud Gandhi and I decided to do a trip together to the famous Valley of Flowers. As (bad)luck would have it Uttrakhand witnessed a massive cloud burst causing severe damage to life and property including the highways that we planned to traverse.

We had 9 days off from office, blessings from our spouses for the leave of absence from their lives, brand new travel gear and a packed back pack. Not wanting to waste this opportunity we decided to go to Lahul-Spiti valley. Ditching our bike+Trek trip we rented a car, filled our backpacks with lots of food/chocolates and went ahead.

The road to Chitkul — The last village at China border

We planned to travel to Shimla, reach Spiti through Kinnaur valley and then come back via Rohtang/Manali route. This route had few advantages over starting from Manali:
  1. The elevation gain is gradual when coming from Shimla and the body gets acclimatized much easier. Specially for some like me who is prone to AMS this was the sane choice.
  2. You do not need permit to enter Manali from Rohtang, but number of cars entering Rohtang from Manali is controlled via permits — not just that it usually takes one day to get the permit, depending on the traffic you may have to wait another day or two to get permission to enter.
  3. The roads from Rohtang towards Battal/Kumzum Pass are bad, so starting a trip from Manali would have added lot uncertainties at the start of the trip.
Route map for the 1053 KMs we traveled one side - overall we clocked 2150 Kms in 9 days !

The Google map short-link for the route we followed is https://goo.gl/maps/oBMXbr6XE4t.

Below is the itinerary that we followed (original plan here), we had to change our plans in between. The road from Battal to Rohtang was so bad that our Swift got stuck twice within 20 KMs from Battal. We were told that things are worse farther ahead so we decided to turn back and enjoy the same vistas again.
I will post detailed review of each day including the places where we stopped/stayed, tips for future travelers, road conditions and places to visit.
Day 1- Left Gurgaon at 4:30 AM and reached Sarahan via Shimla. We drove safe but not slow. The roads are great till Sarahan with a small patch of road under construction. We reached Sarahan at about 7 PM, after a lazy lunch near Narkanda and few tea breaks.
Day 2- Woke up early and went to see the amazing Bhimakali temple. By 8 AM we left Sarahan, took a detour near Karcham to go to Chitkul, the last village near China border. After spending few hours in Chitkul we went back to Karcham and headed to Kalpa, hoping to get good views of the famous and majestic Kinnar-Kailash mountains. Reached Kalpa by6 PM and checked into a hotel for much needed rest — Kinnar-Kailash kept eluding us due to cloud cover.
Day 3- The hotel manager at Kalpa insisted we go to this place called ‘suicide point’, turned out it was a new road (not on Google maps) with amazing views. Again this was an early day, by 8 AM we were out of Kalpa (refueled at Reking Peo) towards famous Spiti valley. We had a sumptuous breakfast at Spillow village and reached Tabo by 4 PM and checked into the Monastery guest house. Obviously the whole drive is full of places to take pictures and pictures we took :)
Day 4 - Due to AMS I could not sleep in Tabo, so was up by 4 AM and forced Kumud to get up by 5 :). One should not miss the early morning prayer at Tabo monastery, the only religious place that I know which is continuously functional from over last 1000 years. After attending the prayer we left Tabo for Kaza but we did cover all the villages before reaching Kaza, Langaza (highest altitude village), Hikkim (Post office at highest altitude in the world) and Komic (monastery at highest altitude in the world). This was the highlight of the trip — we did not pass a single car in 30 KMs of going towards Komic, at about 5000 meters altitude we realized that few hundred KMs that we can see with our eyes has no other human being other than us !!

Gew and Tabo Monastery


Day 5- Kaza to Chandrataal, we left our hotel about 7:30 AM and drove to Key monastery and Kibber village. Here we found the limits of Google maps, as our onward journey got cut short by a bridge that was not yet constructed. Went back 25 KMs and were back driving towards Chandrataal via Kumzum Pass. The roads here became pretty bad and the last 8–10 KMs to Chandrataal are meant only for off-roaders. Thankfully we had Kumud as the skilled driver. Much to disbelief of all the Thar’s and Sumo’s we had befriended en route, we reached Chandrataal by 4:00 PM — without any damage to the car!. After spending over two hours we came down and stayed in a CPWD dorm at Battal — the next day was going to be brutal, but we did not yet know how much. Another tough night only got 1 hour sleep due to AMS (Had been on Diamox the whole day).
Day 6- We had planned to reach Manali today, but fate had other plans, we left at 5 AM so that we could cross over the bad stretches early in the morning when the water flow on the road would be considerably less. But we hit bad luck in the first hour as our Swift got stuck crossing the first waterfall, we tried again and it got stuck again. Quick thinking and we decided to head back via the route we came. At 8 AM we are back at Battal and decided to cover as much distance as we can. Our target was to drive 240 KMs and reach Kalpa, with a backup plan to stay at Spillow. The day had more for us in store, we had our first tyre puncture in Tabo when we reached there at lunch time. It started raining, the first rain we encountered in the whole trip. There was a bridge that collapsed near Chango, our great BRO and Army got it up and running by 7 in the evening, the direct road to Spillow was blocked, and we had to take a 30 Km detour through Nako, which we did while it rained and rocks kept flying from the mountains. All in all with the help of a BRO Colonel we reached Pooh at 8 PM — thanked the Army guys profusely for letting us follow them and crashed in the picturesque town of Pooh — we also got mobile network back at this point!
Army Fixing  a new bridge - Check out the clouds that started pouring after few minutes and the underside of the bridge that collapsed.
Day 7- Left Pooh at 8 AM, with a breakfast stop at Spillow we reached Shimla by 6:30 PM, this was an aggressive plan considering that we did not ever compromise on safety and encountered huge jams in route to Shimla — welcome back urban civilization!
Day 8- Last day of our trips and it poured heavily in Shimla, we did not want to leave in heavy rains and had some shopping to do (knick knacks for kids), we finally left Shimla at about 1 AM after a hearty brunch at Combermere Cafe. Reached Gurgaon by 11 PM, and used the Sunday to rest and spend time with the family.
Thus ending an amazing journey, more details coming up in few weeks.

Panoramic view of the elusive Chandrataal lake




Comments

  1. hiii
    U have explained the tour elaborately. thank u so much for your time. Have u ever visited leh, if yes than which is having more worth to visit either Leh or Spiti valley?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello,
      I have not been to Leh but my friend had done Leh trip on bike and he was clear that Leh is a better destination than Spiti :)

      Though Leh trip would need a little more time than Spiti.

      Delete
  2. Hi,
    I am planning to go spiti in August. Can you please tell us how much time it would take on an average to reach tabo from narkanda considering all factors and what kind of stays are available in that area.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would suggest that you break your journey in two days and stay at Kalpa for one night. The vistas are good and you will also be able to get acclimatize better. We stayed at Rolling Rang in Kalpa which was a nice clean hotel with the balcony in every room opening up to Kinnar-Kailash view.

      However if you leave really early (5AM on the road) you can reach Tabo too by the evening - 12 hours with couple of breaks in between should be enough - and if the weather stays put. Few place to stay beyond Kalpa are - Spillow (Home Stay), Pooh (Only on nice hotel near the SBI bank on right), Naako (tents, hotels), Chango (mostly home-stays).

      Delete
  3. Hi,
    I am planning to go spiti in August. Can you please tell us how much time it would take on an average to reach tabo from narkanda considering all factors and what kind of stays are available in that area.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the info.. Can you suggest some dhabas aur hotels where we can get food.. Also would like to know how to go to chandratal lake? Does it comes after kuzum paas or we have other route to go there from tabo coz map is unable to show the direction towards chandrataal lake. How was the weather der was it too cold or carrying light winter clothes would be enough?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. - You will get small Dhaba near every village, the food is Tabo was excellent, especially at the Monastery Guest House's Restaurant. After Kinnaur you can not be too choosy. Look out for Stickers of top bike groups if you can. Chacha-Chachi Dhaba at Battal was nice.
      - You need to cross Kumzum pass and then take the road to right towards Chandrataal, the last few KMs are very bad and a SUV will be preferred choice.
      - It will get cold a nice jacket that protects from wind too will be good. Its personal though I saw most of the people doing OK with a sweat-shirt and a jacket on. Do keep a cap that covers your ear, think of it as Delhi January 1st morning :).

      Delete
  5. Actually we are planning for a five day trip to spiti from delhi. So would like to know if we don't stop at kalpa and continue will be able to reach tabo before sunset?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes it is possible, try leaving early (by 5 AM), take no detours/unneeded stops. Hopefully the drivers are skilled :) - Do keep backup options to stay if needed. I will recommend that one does not drive in rain or night time.

      Delete
  6. Also it would be of great help if you could tell the price range of the accomodation and what are the keys things to be taken if doing a self drive to spiti

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We paid Rs 1000 at Kalpa and Sarahan with breakfast. Rs 500 at Tabo and Kaza (w/o breakfast). The tents in Chandrataal are between Rs 1500-5000 with food (dinner/breakfast). We paid Rs 500 for 2 people to the CPWD watchman for letting us stay in the shared Dorm.

      Take essential medicines, air pump/puncture kit, dry fruits, drinks, lots of water stock, standard tool kit for your car, rain coats, umbrella, a torch, hand sanitizer and lots of tissues/toilet roll.

      Delete
    2. Thank you so much.. Its of great help ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

      Delete
  7. Actually we are planning for a five day trip to spiti from delhi. So would like to know if we don't stop at kalpa and continue will be able to reach tabo before sunset?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for the info.. Can you suggest some dhabas aur hotels where we can get food.. Also would like to know how to go to chandratal lake? Does it comes after kuzum paas or we have other route to go there from tabo coz map is unable to show the direction towards chandrataal lake. How was the weather der was it too cold or carrying light winter clothes would be enough?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi I just finished my leh trip and back in Manali. I drive swift diesel 2010 model. I a planning to visit spiti via shimla. Will the route via shimla and back is easy on swift? Please reply soon. I will be leaving to manali on 6th morning

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes the roads are awesome except for a stretch between Rhotang and Battal, check with the cars coming off the opposite direction to get a feel of the situation at that time, many people cross these roads even on an Alto.

      Best of luck!

      Delete

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