An unforgettable journey through this Utopian Paradise: Spiti Valley

Julley!! Yes, that’s how you greet in Spiti. This trip was on a whim, a few friends hanging out, we talked about a long trip and decided we will do a 15 day trip to Himachal Pradesh. Well, you and I both know how such plans are, you never expect these plans to happen, to my surprise people were serious about it and they started to plan the very next day.

After having a rough plan ready, a ritual before every trip must be done, going to Decathlon, it has everything you need to travel. If you do not have a rucksack then I’d recommend you to get one for your northern trips.

There are a few ways you can do a trip to Spiti Valley.

  1. Start from Shimla, explore Spiti, and get back to Shimla.
  2. Start from Manali, explore Spiti, and get back to Manali.
  3. Start from Shimla, explore Spiti, and go to Manali or the opposite.

The Manali — Spiti route depends on the opening of the Kunzum pass opening status as it is blocked with snow 60% of the year, you can get the dates for your current year online. Usually, the pass opens somewhere in the last week of May. If you want to do the whole Shimla -Spiti- Manali circuit I would recommend you start from Shimla somewhere around 28th May.

We planned to get a flight to Delhi then a bus to Shimla, find something to get to Spiti, and then to Manali. I know, not much of a plan but It’s fun to just wing it.

If you haven’t done any shopping already then do check my blog about necessary things for a trip to the Himalayas.

Day 1 of the trip, all packed and ready to leave for my life’s longest continuous travel without any rest. Reached Delhi by evening, flights delayed and by the time we reached Kashmiri gate, our bus for Shimla had long gone. The last bus for Shimla usually leaves by 8 pm. With no other bus available we decided to go to take a bus to Chandigarh instead and then find something from there. We reached Chandigarh early morning and quickly got to the bus station and found a state transport bus leaving for Shimla and we got in for a crazy 4-hour drive.

Shimla — The Quen of Hills

Finally, after reaching Shimla, we started looking for a ride to take us to Spiti, the Mall road is a good place to start as there are many travel companies, you get a basic quotation at one place and try bargaining at other places. To our surprise after visiting a few offices, every travel company on Mall road knew we wanted to go to Spiti and they all hiked their prices. Luckily we found a driver who did not work for any company and he gave us a good deal.

So far it had been 32 hours without any actual rest on a bed, but we decided to push it and start the journey and get our rest at Sarahan. On the way our driver took stops and showed us few places of the beautiful Sarahan valley, that’s when I started feeling the real might of the Himalayas, you always have to tilt your neck out of the window to see the top of the mountains.

Treacherous roads and skipping stones are always a risk on these roads, we saw many vehicles mangled just lying in the valley.

You’ll get to see many apple orchards and stalls selling cherries on the way. The driver suggested to take a stay up in the mountains near the Bhimkali temple, it was a long way up from the actual town, but adventurous, the view from the temple was when amazing, it was the first time I saw snow-capped mountains so close to me, I couldn’t get the smile off my face, a quick dinner made by this lovely old couple, they cooked Thenthuk and Thukpa for us. I slept as soon as I hit the bed, rest on a bed after over 40 hours, the longest travel of my life. The next morning was mesmerizing, golden light on the white mountains, quite a sight.

Our next stop was Nako village, on the way we saw different places of the majestic Kinnaur valley, roads cut in between mountains were baffling when you cross them you will always feel that the whole mountain just might fall off on you. Then there was the famous suicide point, boy it feels terrifying standing there. The whole time you will see jaw-dropping mountains, rather you won’t be able to keep your mouth and eyes from being wide open.

You reach this checkpoint where they take your details and there is a big board saying Julley! which means Hello!

The excitement was even more now, we saw so many tiny villages on the mountains and in the valleys, remember those drawings we used to make when we were kids? a house, a river by its side and mountains, and the sun in the background? this was exactly like that.

We met this old lady standing on the road, I asked if we could give her a lift and she was so happy that she touched my head and blessed me, after getting in the car I asked her about her work and where she lives, she said she works in the farms below in the valley and lives at Nako village. Now try and understand, this lady, almost 60 years old, walks down the whole mountain and climbs back up every day, I saw the height, I swear I wouldn’t be able to complete that in a day. The level of fitness the people here have is insane, we can’t keep up with them.

Nako is a tiny village built around a lake at a height of almost 3600 meters. We rested for a while, enjoyed the lunch there, mutton momos, and took off for Tabo village. On the way to Tabo, we saw a village with a population of 54, crazy right? everyone knows everyone there.

Tabo is a relatively bigger village than Nako, covered by mountains on all sides and a very good place for astrophotography, that night I slept at 3 am, the temperature was somewhere around 0° C but the excitement of seeing the Milkyway through naked eyes was so much that none of us could sleep, I took a lot of shots, never seen such starry sky in my life, I felt like I’m not on earth but somewhere in space.

The morning view was no less, this is what I could see from my bed.

After a quick Maggi breakfast we visited the famous monastery, it is one of the oldest monasteries and is made out of mud, it is a must-visit place.

On the way to Kaza

The next stop was Kaza, this is the main village in Spiti, and the moment you reach here you should go to The Himalayan Cafe and meet Badal (doggo who lives there). There are many hotels and homestays available so accommodation won't be a problem, there is also a Zostel for backpackers.

The next day we went to see Komic village, it is said to be the highest village connected by a motorable road, don't forget to get fossils from there for souvenirs.

Hikkim was the next spot where there is the world's highest post office, you can send letters to your family and friends and the letter will have sent from the world's highest post office written on it. Then to Langza where there is a very big Buddha statue, can spot it from over a kilometer away.

In the evening you can visit the area near the helipad of Kaza, the sunset looks beautiful from there and a while later the sky lights up with stars.

Our car broke down that evening which lead to a new adventure, and you guys can do this as well, we rented bikes from The Himalayan Cafe and roamed around the places near Kaza for the next couple of days. I know right! Bike ride in the Himalayas just happened without a plan!

The next day we visited Key Monastery, one of the most peaceful places, I just sat there for an hour talking to the monks, they were telling me about the history of the place and were teaching about life, one of the wisest people I’ve met. They will offer you a special tea, trust me, its the best tea ever!

From there we wen to Kibber, the highest village, and a snow leopard sanctuary, the moment you enter Kibber you will see a big board showing a Snow Leopard and it is so perfect that you will be able to visualize the Snow Leopard standing there at that moment.

From Kibber there is a route to Chicham, unfortunately, the bridge was under construction so we couldn't visit, but you definitely can. Funny story, my friend was trying to peep and see how high the bridge is and his goggles fell in the valley, it was so high that we didn't hear it land, rather couldn't even get an approximate area of where it might have fallen.

Evenings again spent near the helipad followed by karaoke night at the Himalayan cafe.

If you remember our car is still broken down and we didn't have any other mode of transport, luckily Kunzum pass opened the very next day and we got to know that there are share taxis from Kaza that take us to Manali, so we booked one and left early next morning. It's about Rs.1000 per seat.

It was one hell of a ride, 12 people in a Tata Sumo on treacherous terrain doing a 14 hours journey, We could feel each and every bump and less space so it gets very uncomfortable. But because of that ride, I got to meet some lovely people, everyone seeking an adventure. Some quit their job to travel, some lied to parents to come on a solo trip and some from another country trying to explore India.

What I was doing while the driver was fixing the tyre

We had flat tyre twice on the trip, which comes as no surprise looking at the landscape, a big thank you to the Border Road Organization to clear the roads every year that too in such harsh climate, I don't think anyone other than them is capable of doing this.

Just before Kunzum pass there Is a turn you take for Chandratal lake, do visit, it’s Magical. On arrival at Kunzum pass, you will see a temple, there is a superstition that if you don’t circle the temple twice in a clockwise direction you won’t reach your destination, you will see all the cars doing that while leaving.

On the road, you will find small stalls where you can take a break and enjoy Maggi with tea or coffee and a spectacular view.

taken from one of the stalls

Before reaching Manali you cross Rohtang Pass, the place is full of snow, looks as if there is vanilla ice cream everywhere.

After reaching Manali we found a place to stay in Old Manali, do visit The Lazy Dog Cafe, it has great food, great music. The next day you can either roam around Manali or go to Chandigarh or Delhi to take your flight or do what we did and continue your vacation and explore Parvati Valley. Stay tuned for the blog of Parvati valley, will post it soon.

Sneak peek from Parvati Valley

Thank you for reading this blog, hope you guys enjoyed it and hope it helps you plan your own trip! For more pictures do check out my Instagram page.

Developer, travel blogger, wildlife and landscape photographer