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Backpacking Spiti


Mountains, rivers and traveling on the roads carved through those mountains is what makes your Spiti journey more special.

Spiti Valley is a cold desert mountain valley located in the Himalayan mountains in the indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Spiti is located at eastern side of the state near Tibet border.

We traveled to Spiti in April, 2018 and it was best decision of my life. The peak season is from Mid - May till end of September. If you want to see Spiti Valley covered with snow, go to Spiti in the month of January or February.

SPITI

The "Spiti" means "middle land". Spiti Valley is located between Tibet and India.

Starting off

The starting point to enter Himachal Pradesh is Delhi or Chandigarh. From both places one can opt for government buses or hire private taxi till Shimla or Manali. Shimla/Manali will be your official entry point to Himachal Pradesh.

We took flight from hometown till Delhi. From Delhi, We pre-booked the train till Chandigarh. We spent 1 day in Chandigarh and next morning took government bus for Shimla. I will give preference to Shimla to start you journey to Spiti instead of Manali.

Journey towards Spiti

Shimla is the capital of Himachal Pradesh and very well connected with other cities of the state. The mode of transportation from Shimla towards Spiti is either by government bus, hired taxi or private vehicle.

For next journey, we traveled by government bus. We took 6.30 AM bus from Shimla but it was till Reckong Peo. There is direct bus available from Shimla to Kaza at 7 PM in the evening but you need travel for 22 hours continuously to reach Kaza.

My suggestion would be, take 6.30 AM bus from Shimla which will reach Reckong Peo around 4 PM. Stay there for 1 or 2 days, explore Kalpa (15 KM from Reckong Peo) and then take bus for Kaza from Reckong Peo in the morning at 7.30. It is the same bus which leaves Shimla at 7 PM in the evening. We met fellow travelers who were traveling directly to Kaza from Shimla. Please avoid traveling in the night, roads are narrow and there is no protection on the side of roads. Also, landslides are very much active on these roads.

If you are traveling to Kaza from Manali, please check if road is open or not. Manali - Kaza remains closed during winter and opens in mid/late May. This year (2018), government opened the road in mid April but due to snowfall they closed it again. Please google it before traveling starting your journey or you have to go back to Manali.

Finally in the Spiti

After traveling for almost 10/11 hours from Reckong Pio, you will reach Kaza in the afternooon or evening mostly. Do relax in the evening, check for hotels/guesthouses if not booked already and plan for your next days.

We reached Kaza around 4 PM. My journey was totally unplanned from Shimla, so we searched for hotels/guesthouses and took some much needed rest.

Explore Spiti

To go around Spiti, one can hire private/shared taxi or bike. There is state transport available to visit nearby places. It's upto you at what pace you want explore Spiti.

When We were in Spiti, state transport buses were not operational. So, only two options were available for us, hiring taxi/bike.But luckily we met one fellow traveler who was traveling by his car. He wanted to visit all the places in single day. There were other travelers as well to whom we met in Kaza. We all traveled in his car.

Nearby Kaza

1. Key Monastery

2. Kibber Village

3. Hikkim Village

4. Komic Village

5. Pin Valley National Park

6. Langza Village

7. Chandratal Lake

8. Pin Valley National Park

We were there in Kaza for 4 days. One the first day, me along with other friends traveled in Car. We visited Key Monastery and Kibber Village. The car owner dropped us back to Kaza and left to visit other places. As the roads to Komic and Langza are quite steep so it was difficult for us to go there in car.

Next day, we hired bikes and explored other places. We visited Hikkim, Komic and Key Monastery one more time to click some nice photographs.

Key Monastery - It is a oldest and largest monastery in the Spiti Valley just 7 KM from Kaza. It was established in 11th Century. Do visit all the prayer rooms. The monks will guide you through each prayer room. When we entered monastery, they offered us butter tea (must try) and some snacks. They were asking questions like where are you from? what do you do? how is the Spiti? After the whole tour of monastery, they gave us lunch and nice cup of milk tea. You will be pleased by the way they will host you.

Kibber Village - Kibber at an altitude of 4205m above sea level is one of the highest villages in the world. One can spend a day at the rest houses here, with the mountains watching over. There isn't much to do, but the sceneries and landscapes around you, as well as the altitude will keep you fascinated. At a little distance from Kibber is Gette, the highest village in the world at a height of 4270 mt above sea level. Visit this village just to witness a settlement at this altitude and its overwhelming surroundings.

Hikkim Village - Hikkim village is famous for the highest operational post office in the world. One can send post card or letter from here to the any part of the world. Situated at around 4400 meters from sea level, this village is on the way to Komic village. You can stop here for half an hour. Send post cards to you loved one and start you journey towards Komic village.

Komic Village - Komic, the highest village in the world with motorable road. Easily accessbile by road, this village few housed, a monastery and beautiful scenary. You will be almost at the level of mountains. The mountains will be straight to your eyesight level. We stayed here for 1 night and the experience was awesome. Read the blog on Komic Village for full experience.

We missed Langza village, Pin Valley and Chandratal lake due to bad weather. The roads were closed due to heavy snowfall and no vehicles were allowed to go towards those regions.

Bikers favourite

Spiti valley is dream destination for every biker and it is getting more popular day by day.

en-route to Kaza(Spiti Valley)

There are many beautiful places on the way to Kaza. If you are doing Spiti Circuit, instead of traveling directly to Kaza, stop in between and visit those places.

If you are starting your journey from Shimla, there are lots of places to visit before you reach Kaza. Once reached Kaza, explore Spiti and complete your journey in Manali. Please check on google if Kaza - Manali route is open or not before starting your journey.

My plan was to start journey in Shimla, stop in between, visit those places and end the journey in Manali. But due to bad weather, I was unable to complete it and I have to come back to Shimla again.

We took bus for Reckong Peo from Shimla in the morning (6.30 AM). Be at the bus stand by 6.15 AM to take the tickets and reserve your seat. Bus will be crowded, no matter on which day you are traveling. Bus will halt for breakfast, lunch, you can carry snacks with you. This bus is till Kalpa (15km from Reckong Peo) so the bus will drop you at market, you have to walk till main bus stand (20 min walk/trek). When we reached to Peo, it was raining heavily. So I was unable to explore anything in evening. We had nice dinner and slept.

Next day, we went to Kalpa (15 KM from Reckong Peo). You will get bus from Main bus stand or Market. Locals said bus is available at every 1 hour, but we waited almost an hour for bus. There was some strike going on of bus drivers at that time. Kalpa can be done in 1 day but if you want you can spend one night there. You can visit Kalpa Monastery and enjoy the beautiful view of Himalayas

Kalpa attraction

The sacred Shivling (abstract representation of Lord Shiva) rock on the Kailash mountain is visible from Kalpa that changes its color at different points in the day. One can trek till that point in the summer. For more info, check with locals.

After visiting monastery, we trekked down towards Reckong Peo. You can see many apple trees on your way. It took hardly 1 hour to reach Reckong Peo. On the way you can see beautiful scenary, take some photos. Once reached to Peo, we visited one more temple of goddess Chandika Devi. The temple is very beautiful and built in style of monastery.

On the Day 3 of Reckong Peo, we started my journey towards Tabo. There are two buses available in the morning for Tabo. One is available at 7.30 and the other on at 9.30. There is one village, you can visit on the way to Tabo. The name of the village is Nako.

So, we took bus which leaves at 7.30 which reaches at Nako around 12PM. The scenary on the way is beautiful. You will be traveling along with river all the time and naked mountains around you. At Nako, there is monastery and lake. Lake water was reflecting clean and blue skies. You have 2-2.5 hours to explore Nako till next bus comes. It takes around half an hour to reach Nako village from bus stand. So, be on time if you want to catch next bus. Bus will halt there for lunch. Ask for lift, if anybody is traveling towards village.

If you want, you can stay at Nako. Homestays are available but there is nothing much you can do except Monastery and Lake. If you have time, you can stay there with locals, explore local life. The next bus will come around 2 or 2.30, the last stop of the bus is Tabo. The bus will reach Tabo around 4-5 PM. We experienced active landslide on the way to Tabo. Driver was very much alert to avoid landslide.

Tabo is a small village on the way to Kaza. In Tabo, you can visit old and new monasteries. Also, you can trek to caves which monks uses for meditation. Next day, we took bus for Dhankar which about 30 KM from Tabo. Bus timing is not fixed as it comes from another village. Be at the bus stand by 9.15 AM, we waited almost 45 minutes, bus came around 10. Bus will drop you at base of Dhankar village, which almost 8 KM from village. You can ask for lift to vehicles going to village, people will not say NO.

There is one more way to reach Dhankar village, that is by trekking. If you want to trek to the village, ask driver to drop at shortcut road for the Dhankar. It is around 2-3 KM's ahead from main bus stop. If you have time, please trek to the Dhankar. Believe me, it is one of the best trek. No need to mention but please carry water and something to eat. Do visit lake at Dhankar. We had very bad experience at the trek, read a blog on Dhankar Monastery for full details and experience.

Luckily, we got lift while coming down so we were very much relieved. There is bus around 3.30-4 PM for Kaza. It is the same bus which comes from Reckong Pio. You will be in Kaza by 5-5.30 PM. We met lots of travelers in the bus, some of them were traveling solo, some of had left everything and traveling from past 2-3 months. These are the people who will inspire you to travel more. Listening to their stories, experience what made evening more beautiful. Next day, Kaza expedition started.

Back from Spiti

Due to bad weather, Kaza-Manali route was not operational. We came back by the route to the Shimla. We took bus from Kaza in the evening around 3 till Tabo. From Tabo, you will get bus for Reckong Peo at 5 in the morning. If you want to Delhi, there is direct bus available for Delhi from Peo. Inform bus conductor/driver that you want to catch bus for Delhi, he will drop you one stop before Peo from where you will get bus for Delhi. If you want to go to Chandigarh then there is bus from Peo which leaves around 1.30 PM. Peo to Chandigarh will cost you RS. 600 PP.

Staying in Spiti

No need to worry about stays in Spiti or en-route to Spiti. Many homestays are available to stay in budget. Below is the list of hotels or homestays where we stayed,

  1. Chandigarh - We stayed at friends house. As a capital of state, you might find city little bit costly. Check online for budget hotels.

  2. Shimla - We stayed at one of communities hostel which cost us around RS. 600 for three people. Room was spacious with 3 beds and common bathroom.

  3. Reckong Peo - Hotel JK International, I won't suggest this hotel. He charged us RS. 800 for three people. Also, if you buy liquor from hotel, he will charge you triple than the actual cost. Food was also costly. Forget hot water, normal water was also not available in the hotel. If you are staying Peo, just for one night I would suggest Abhishek Homestay. He charged us only RS. 400 for three people and plus point hot water was available. This hotel in front of Peo bus stand.

  4. Tabo - In Tabo, we stayed in the monastery guesthourse which was RS. 300 for 3 people but no hot water. While coming back from Kaza, we spend one night in Tabo, we stayed at Sonam guest house which cost us RS. 500 for 3 people plus hot water.

  5. Kaza - One night we spent at Zostel, you will get 1 bed on sharing basis for RS. 600 (per person). Private rooms are also available, check rates online. Due to money constraint, next day we moved to Redwood Cafe which cost us RS. 250 per person. in And one night we spent in Komic Village in a home stay for RS. 500 PP with 3 meals. If you want stay in fancy hotels, options are available. I would suggest in spending 1 night in Komic village.

If you want to stay at Kibber village, I will suggest Norling Home Stay which is at the end of the village and it offers best view of Kibber village and Himalayas. If you are staying in Home stay at any place in Spiti, ask for local liquor "ARAK". They will charge you Rs. 50.

Hotel prices can go up during peak season. It is advisable to book in advance if you are traveling in peak season, as many hotels gets sold out.

Food in Spiti

Till Shimla, you will get different cuisines. but once you left Shimla be prepared for Noodles, Eggs, Chinese/Tibetan cuisines, Parathas (wheat flatbed) and lots of tea.

  1. Chandigarh/Shimla - I don't want to suggest restaurants for these places as you have many options here. In Chandigarh, go to inner market, sector 8, you will get many option. In Shimla, mall road is busiest street of Capital (Himachal Pradesh). Fancy restuarants, different cuisines are available. One can go for street food as well (check rates before ordering).

  2. Reckong Peo - Many small restaurants are available to eat. No fancy food, only momos, noodles are available. I will suggest Maaya Dhaba to eat in Peo. Prices are less and taste is also very good.

  3. Tabo - Very few restaurants are available here. While going to Kaza, we went to Cafe Kunzum Top. Do not order, any different dishes. Try only local cuisine. Charges are quite high as compared to taste of food. There are restaurants available which serves foreign cuisines.

  4. Kaza - Go to Kaza market, many more small outlets available for lunch, dinner. Food is not much costly. You will end up spending Rs. 100 for more than enough food. AS this is headquarter of Spiti, many option are available to eat.

I will suggest to go for local food instead of eating foreign cuisines.

After traveling for almost 11 days alongside rivers, mountains I had no words to explain the beauty. People are very friendly here, the way they will host you in their homes will stunned you. Go, visit the endless beauty of Himalayas. Give these people chance to host you. Avoid using plastic in mountains, help in keeping this beauty untouched. Take chips packets, water bottles back with you,. Please do not throw it anywhere on the roads.

Carry cash with you on whole trip. Also, make sure you have enough cash with you as ATM's are not available everywhere and most of restaurants/hotels does not accepts cards. ATM's are available in Shimla, Reckong Peo, Tabo and Kaza. In Kaza, SBI (State Bank of India) ATM was available but it was closed. So, if you have SBI ATM card then you can withdraw cash from SBI bank in Kaza. In most of the places, only SBI banks/ATM's are available.

Mobile Network

Till Reckong Pio, you can use any network except Idea. It sucks after leaving Shimla. If possible, use BSNL SIM card on whole trip. After Peo, only BSNL will work. Once you reach Kaza, very rarely mobile network will be available. Download offline maps in your mobile.

Bad Decisions

  1. Spending 1 day and night in Shimla. There is nothing much you can do in Shimla except roaming at mall road. If you are arriving in the evening to Shimla then you can stay there for night and take morning bus for Kaza.

  2. Staying at Hotel JK International at Reckong Peo. There is renovation going on at this hotel. Rooms are costly, food and liquor (3 times of price) is also costly. And forget hot water, they didn't provided normal water as well.

  3. Trekking to Dhankar Monastery/Village. This is not a bad decision but we were carrying all the luggage with us. Also, we didn't carried water, food and didn't had breakfast in the morning.

#spiti #himalayas

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