Spiti Valley – The hidden Shangri la of Himalayas

In 2010, a few of my friends went out on a biking trip to Leh & Ladakh, but due to heavy rains in Leh, they ended up visiting Spiti valley. Very recently, I happend to watch some footage of their trip and that’s when I realised I wanted to see Spiti with my own eyes.
By the time we decided (me and my wife) to go on a trip to Spiti, it was just 1 week from the day we actually took off.
We didn’t have enough time to plan an itinerary or book hotel. We just took off. I’d say it’s always fun going on a trip with an unwritten itinerary.

We flew from Bangalore till Chandigarh. This is the second time I visted Chandigarh. I love this small very well planned city.
We should have booked toy train from Chandigarh to Shimla earlier, hard luck! tickets were all sold out.

We had to drive to Shimla instead. We stopped for brunch at one of the hundreds of Pujnabi Dhabas we came across. The parathas we had here were so yummy!

Shimla was, as expected, way too crowded. Traffic jams slowed us down big time!

We reached Kufri at around 4ish in the evening, we were in a dilemma whether to go for a horse back ride or not. Horse back ride would take anywhere around 2-4 hours, we chucked the plan and drove ahead towards Narkanda.
We left the crowd behind in Shimla, and got to see the beauty of the Himalayas onwards. These roads were just heavenly.

On our way to Narkanda

We stayed at a decent hotel in Narkanda. ​Narkanda is a small town, at an altitude of around 2700 meters and hosts a Ski resort. I would definitely reccomend a stay here rather than in Shimla.

Our trip was all about our journey on the unpaved roads, scary bridges, dam construction sites, along the beautiful apple farms, rivers, streams,high altitude mountain passes and low valleys with an unplanned itinerary.

I can try to write about my experience about the journey, but believe me there’s no substitute for being there.

From Narkanda, it took us around 5 hours to reach Sangla Valley. We found this place to be so scenic, we decided to stay here We spent sometime in the evening hiking around. We found peple to be very hospitable people here. We stayed in a Hotel but we could also see a few tents hooked up in Apple farms, we should have rented tents instead but we’d already booked a room (at Cafe 42). I’d also suggest, if possible drive till Rakchamm and stay in Rakcham, which is an hours journey from Sangla towards Chitkul.

Our next destination Chitkul, the last village on the Indo-Tibet border. Okay, rather than explaining about the journey in words, i’l better post more pics.

On our way to Chitkul
After our visit to Chitkul, we by-passed Reckong Peo and drove towards Puh (or Pooh). FYI, there’s a military base in Pooh, which hosts a movie theatre. Most probablt you could watch a Bollywood movie here, if interested.

Along the Sutluj and Spiti rivers, drive only gets better and better (and deserted roads) onwards. We visited Nako and Tabo monasteries along. Both these monasteries are a ‘must visit’.

Tabo Monastery
Tabo Monastery

We reached Kaza, in the evening. Electricity was out for the last 2 days. A blessing in disguise. If you love stars, you have to watch the Night skies from this place. There’s no way I can describe this place in words.
Look at this – http://spaceexp.tumblr.com/image/107251685431

Kaza The Shangri La

Kibber is an hours drive from Kaza and happens to be world’s highest village.

Kibber – Highest Village in the world
Key Monastery
Key Monastery

We could’nt go further. Due to a snowfall, Kunzum pass was closed. We had to take a detour back towards Reckong Peo.

Reckong Peo
Down town Reckong Peo

Our drive towards Sangla from Reckong Peo was quite a bit of an adventure, it was almost getting dark and we were in the middle of nowhere. That’s when we got to know the road ahead was closed due to a landslide. There was no turning back, we had to take a detour on a narrow muddy road which took us deep into the woods. It was pitch dark and we kept driving in the night. We reached Sumdo at around 10 PM, some one suggested us we could stay at Tapri Government guest house. By the time we reached Tapri it was midnight. ‘Never again we’l take such a risk’ – we told ourselves

From Tapri, we passed lush green Jalori Pass, towards Kullu. Kullu to Manali along Beas was fun a few years back. But now, I feel it’s a little too commercial and crowded.
We spent a couple of days around Manali, we also made it to Roghtang Pass.

Around Spiti
Around Spiti

Around Spiti

I got so used to traveling around Spiti that I felt like I could just go on and on. I felt like I should just stay back. This trip, to me, was was such a physical and spiritual gain.

I’d like to end this with a quote that I’d read somewhere-
The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t even think to ask

Our travel map –
Chandigarh-Shimla-Narkanda-Solang-Sangla-Chitkul-ReckongPeo-Puh-Tabo-Nako-Kaza-Kibber-Key-Sangla-Jalori-Kullu-Manali-Rohtang-Vasisht. (Kunzum Pass was closed due to heavy snow)

List of Hotels that we stayed in-
Hotel Old Thorns
Price- 700 INR
Address: Behind Narkanda Main Bus stand, there is a board behind temple about the hotel.
Sangla Valley
Price- 1000 INR
I suggest if possible stay at Rakchamm.
Hotel Rupin Riverview
Rakcham Sangla, 9816686789, 9418092894
Govt Guest house, 5km from highway uphill
Price- 1100 INR
Kaza – Hotel Deyzor
Price- 1500 (We paid 2k for 2 days – off season rates)
Address: Near BSNL Office V.P.O., New Kaza, Himachal Pradesh 172114
Phone:094 18 402660
Tapri – PWD Guest house
Price- 500 INR
Adress: Tapri 1km from highway downhill.
Price- We paid around 2000 for 2 days
Best place to stay in Manali.
Address: 500 meters from Vashist hot water springs on main road

Nail Biting start..

It was a long day yesterday, we loaded our bikes at Yeshwanthpur railway station. We had to collect all the documents required for parcelling our bikes in the morning… DL, RC Book, Insurance and Emission Certificates of all the bikes…
We reached Yeshwanthpur Rly station at 4 ish, emptied petrol tanks, got our bikes packed, paid transport charges and parcelled off our bikes.
Once everything was done, I went to Chinnaswami Stadium to watch KPL match between Belagavi Panthers and Mysore Maharajas. ArunKumar and Manish Pandey played brilliant knocks.
It was 11 when I reached home with tired legs and sleepy eyes.
Next Day–
Today all of us, ‘The Wildriders’  had lunch buffet at  ‘Legacy of Punjab’. It was fun all the while, with lots of Lolzz nd LMAOzzzs, we ate as if there s no tomorrow. 🙂

Btw, theres a lot of facts thats worrying us-
1. Heavy rains in Delhi, floods in many parts of the Delhi.
2. Snowfall continues in Himachal Pradesh, Rohtang Pass closed as of now
3. News on Chinese infiltration in Leh
4. Pakistan firing on LOC near Wagah.
5. Jet Airways strike continues, lucky we dint book Jet.


All set to get Lehd

Flight tickets:
Departure Kingfisher airlines – BLR to DEL 19 Sep 17:30 PM – per person – Rs. 3718
Rest of us return Kingfisher airlines – DEL to BLR 2 Oct 8:45 PM

Since last week all we have done is serviced our bikes and got them modified to suite Ladakh conditions.
Shopping is almost done.

The final list of Wild Riders all set to ride through the Himalayas..

6 bikes, 9 WRs

Our Draft Plans are all ready, Sunil has done a fabulous job in sketching out this plan :

Sep 20 –
Depart by 11AM to Rupnagar (60kms from Chandigarh), Better to stay in towns than cities for cost cutting. ( Rupnagar hotels url : http://rupnagar.nic.in/html/hotel.htm ,you can check out BHAKRA NANGAL damn if u have time as its just 10kms away :), easy for you kickoff the lesser himalayan terrain early in the morning avoiding traffic.
Total Km Coverage: 250kms ( Achievable )

Sep 21 –
Early morning Leave to Manali which will take 8 to 10hrs so by 5pm easy check at MANALI.Check in
Total KM coverage: 250 kms ( Achievable coz good roads and no stop overs )

Sep 22 –
Just 3 to 4 places to see in Manali which can be covered in 2 to 3hrs so by 12NOON if u depart from MANALI you can reach SISSU or reach KEYLONG if possible. SISSU again is COST CUTTING compared to KEYLONG just 25kms away from KEYLONG.
Total km coverage — 100kms ( Quite achievable as you crossing one of the first big PASS — ROHTANG, traffic expected )

Sep 23 –
Morning Sissu Dept by 9am(worst case) reach SARCHU(J&K border)by 5pm.Check in to a TENT AT SARCHU 🙂 enjoy the AMS ( acute mountain sickness)
Total km coverage– 170kms ( Achievable by 8hrs considering 20kms per hr and you will be passing the second highest pass on the manali-leh highway – BARALACHA LA )

Sep 24 –
Depart to Leh from SARCHU by 7AM (****important****) reach LEH by 6pm.Check in LEH, RELAX RELAX RELAX.
Total km coverage — 200kms ( Achievable with in 10 to 12hrs and you will be passing thru 2 highest passes on the way — LALCHUNG LA and TANGLANG LA, passes take much coz of ascending and descending them, MORE PLAINS is one where you can test your LIMITS… LOL )

Sep 25 –
Depart to KHARDUNG LA ( HIGHEST MOTORABLE ROAD IN THE WORLD) by 9am and be back by 4 or 5pm as MONASTERIES and LOCAL PLACES at LEH can be seen at night too 🙂
Total kms coverage: 120kms ( Easily achievable To and fro KHARDUNG LA )

Sep 26 –
Here starts the confusion in your MINDS—2 options> COME BACK VIA SRINAGAR or VIA MANALI…THINK THINK THINK… can you make it??? bharat has only 3 days to hit back DELHI including this day….
PLAN 1: Dept to KARGIL
Total kms coverage: 210kms ( SUPER ROAD as you will also pass thru MAGNETIC HILL, remember DONT TRY STUNTS as BULLETS WILL START INCREASING) lmaozz
PLAN 2 : EARLY morning dept to PANGONG TSO ( Beautiful high altitude lake) which is on the way to MANALI Route and come back and stay at PANG/ Go as further as possible as the objective is to RETURN ASAP.
Total kms coverage: 230kms ( Achievable)

Sep 27 -According to:
PLAN 1- Reach Sringar by evening, check in.
Total kms coverage: 230kms (Achievable as you will be passing thru one of the coldest passes in south asia — DRASS)
Total kms coverage: 180 to 200kms ( Same route 🙂 )

Sep 28 – According to:
PLAN 1: Check out in and around Srinagar– like GULMARG and PAHALGHAM and depart to JAMMU (150kms ) if not time reach straight down to PATHANKOT ( 250kms)
Total kms coverage: 150kms if site seeing in SRINAGAR , 250kms if nothing 🙂
PLAN 2: Dept to MANALI— and CHECK IN
Total kms coverage: 150kms ( Same Route)

Sep 29: According to:
PLAN 1: Now DESTINATION is DELHI. Go to AMRITSAR check WAGAH and come to JALANDHAR/ LUDHIANA for staying back.
Total kms Coverage: 250kms to 300kms ( It is NH-1—-JUST IMAGINE!!!)

Sep 30 – According to:


Weather at Manali, Leh has become verry unpredicatble in the last few days..Keeping our fingers crossed..
Plan 1 or Plan 2????????????