Lahaul-Spiti is one of the most enchanting regions of Himachal Pradesh and nowadays, quite a few people are interested in traveling to it. The twin valleys of Himachal’s tribal region are separated by the Kunzum La and in this travel guide, I will be guiding you on how to travel to Spiti Valley from Delhi.
This travel guide has been designed for those traveling in cars, taxis or motorcycles.
Preparing for a trip to Spiti
Preparing for a trip to Spiti isn’t all that different than preparing for a trip to Ladakh. Mainly because it is a long journey over rough roads and in barren high altitude area. Hence my recommendation would be to read the following articles on BCMTouring. Even though they have been written with Ladakh in mind, they will suffice for Spiti as well.
When should I travel to Spiti?
Spiti Valley is open throughout the year unless heavy snowfall or landslides block it temporarily. Having said that, it is best to travel to Spiti during the month of June and September.
July and August are monsoon months in rest of Himachal Pradesh and hence roads in Kinnaur and between Manali and Losar can close down temporarily due to landslides. Though Spiti itself isn’t affected by monsoon rain.
Kunzum Pass generally shuts down by the middle of October and remains closed till June, hence you won’t be able to do the complete circuit if you travel during this time.
You can visit the Road Status section of BCMTouring to gain information about the status of Kunzum La and the road to Spiti.
How many days are needed for a trip to Spiti?
You will need at least 6 days for a trip to Spiti and even though you can try and save a day by rushing along, I wouldn’t recommend it. In fact, there is so much to see and explore in Spiti that it is a good idea to keep at least 8-10 days in hand.
Do I need any permit?
If you’re travelling from Manali to Spiti, then you will need a permit for your vehicle in the form of “beyond Rohtang Pass permit”. This is available online, at the following URL, Online Permit for Rohtang Pass.
Apart from this, no other permit is needed for Indian Nationals.
In case you’re a foreign national or an NRI, you will need Protected Area Permit (PAP) in order to travel between Reckong Peo and Sumdo, since this area runs quite close to the Indo-Tibetan Border. Permit can be obtained from the DC Offices in Kaza, Reckong Peo and Shimla. If you’re a foreign national from Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, Burma or Bangladesh, you will need to obtain this permit from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi.
Do I need to worry about AMS?
Spiti Valley and Chandertal, in particular, are situated at fairly high altitude, hence chances of getting hit by high altitude sickness (AMS) is there. Hence it is recommended to begin the journey from the Shimla side, as you will end up climbing altitude gradually. If you choose to begin your journey from Manali, you will be covering the high altitude areas first, increasing your chances of getting hit by AMS.
Make sure to keep yourself hydrated at all times and go through this AMS Survival Guide to learn about the precautions and medication you can take to keep yourself safe.
Till Reckong Peo, there is no dearth of fuel pumps and availability is good as well. However, the petrol pump in Kaza can run out of fuel, so please plan accordingly. Because if Kaza Petrol Pump is running dry, then you will find the next petrol pump at Manali or Tandi (based on where you’re heading.) Though fuel should be available in black, the cost would be fairly high and the quality can be bad.
Mobile Networks and Connectivity
As far as Spiti Valley is concerned, BSNL rules the roost. So if you wish to stay connected as much as possible, make sure to get a BSNL/MTNL connection (prepaid connections also work.) Though please keep in mind, even the BSNL network in Kaza can go down easily. So make sure to inform your loved ones about this fact in advance, so that they wouldn’t worry unnecessarily.
Credit Cards and ATMs
Please do not depend on credit cards and ATMs beyond Reckong Peo. Carry enough cash for the journey till Manali, since Kaza petrol pump does not accept cards and the ATM at Tabo and Kaza (operational between 10 am to 7 pm) can run out of money and the smaller villages in Spiti Valley do not have any ATMs.
Accommodation Availability in Spiti
There are numerous hotels, guest houses, and homestays in Spiti Valley. So unless you’re traveling in peak season (June) when the demand is high or traveling during the winter when limited guesthouses are open, there is no need to worry or book hotels in advance. Plenty of accommodation in form of tents is also available before Chandertal (couple of kilometers before the lake) though please keep in mind, it can get quite cold there. Accommodation at Losar is more comfortable and it isn’t too far from Chandertal.
If you’re traveling to Spiti in June, please try and book accommodation in advance, especially at places like Kalpa/Reckong Peo and Manali. Hotels can be booked online through any major travel portal.
Automobile Mechanics in Spiti Valley
Frankly speaking, you’re on your own, once you leave Shimla and are entirely dependent on local garages and mechanics until you reach Kullu-Manali. They too are fairly limited, with Reckong Peo being the last place before Kaza, where you can expect to find an automobile mechanic. Between Reckong Peo and Kaza you can find puncture repair shops at places like Sumdo, but since they are operated by a single person, they cannot be depended upon.
So please make sure your vehicle is in good condition before you set off for the trip from Delhi and also make sure that you’re carrying essential spares and puncture repair kit.
Travel Itinerary for Delhi – Spiti Valley Road Trip
The following itinerary is for 6 days, starting from Delhi. The first, fifth and sixth day will require maximum driving time, hence make sure you’re mentally prepared for it and start your journey, early in the morning.
I have written a few other circuits you can add to this itinerary towards the end, in case you have more time in hand.
In case you find it difficult to travel for 10-12 hours a day, please keep at least 8-9 days in hand.
Day 1: Delhi – Ambala – Shimla – Narkanda – Rampur (480 KM)
This is one of the long yet easier journey days, with the majority of the kilometers being covered in plains. However, if you’re traveling on an extended weekend, especially during June, you can get stuck in traffic jam around Shimla, so make sure to start early from Delhi.
If you can drive/ride longer, it would be a good idea to travel till Sarahan. It is cooler than Rampur and quite scenic as well.
Make sure to refuel at Rampur, to be on the safer side.
Day 2: Rampur – Jeori – Wangtu – Reckong Peo – Kalpa (106 KM)
Even though this seems like a small drive, expect to spend at least 4 hours on the road due to the nature and condition of the road and plenty of photography opportunities en route. Though travel time can go up drastically in case there are any landslides.
Once at Kalpa, you can explore Lochawa La-Khang Fort and Narayan-Nagini Temple. Also don’t forget to drive ahead till the scenic Roghi Village and the famous, Suicide Point en route.
You can also take a detour to Sangla and Chitkul if you do not mind traveling more.
Day 3: Kalpa – Nako – Gue Village – Tabo (192 KM)
It is best to start early in the morning, since you will be leaving Kinnaur and greenery behind and entering the arid Spiti Valley. Make sure to fill up fuel from the Reckong Peo petrol pump, before proceeding further.
En route you can visit the Nako Gompa and Nako Lake, as well as the Gue Monastery, where the 500-year-old mummy of Buddhist Monk, Sangha Tenzin is kept.
Once at Tabo, don’t forget to visit the old as well as the new monastery of Tabo.
Day 4: Tabo – Dhankar – Pin Valley (Mud Village) – Kaza – Kibber – Gette – Kee Monastery – Kaza (190 KM)
Start early in the morning from Tabo and in case you weren’t able to visit Tabo Monastery, do that before proceeding to the first stop of the journey today, Dhankar. Visit the beautiful Dhankar Monastery and then head to Pin Valley.
At Pin Valley, you can drive till Mud Village and visit Kungri Monastery en route.
Afterwards, drive towards Kaza and after checking in, visit the Kibber and Gette Villages, along with the Kee Monastery, before coming back to Kaza for night stay. Make sure to fill up petrol today, since you will be travelling to Manali early tomorrow morning.
Day 5: Kaza – Losar – Kunzum Pass – Chandertal – Gramphu – Rohtang Pass – Manali (215 KM)
This is going to be one of your longest as well as the most difficult day of the trip. So make sure to start early from Kaza or better yet, instead of staying at Kaza, stay at Losar to cut down the travel time today (expect to spend at least 10-12 hours on the road.)
The journey to Losar is good and quite scenic. Beyond Losar, the road is extremely bad (the worst in the circuit) till you reach Gramphu. However, the beautiful Kunzum Pass comes as a respite for travelers, since it is quite scenic, especially early in the season.
Beyond Kunzum Pass and before Batal is the diversion for the Chandertal Lake and it is rougher than the Losar – Gramphu road and narrow as well. So if you aren’t comfortable covering this section in your own vehicle, you can hire a taxi from Kaza to do this section or skip it entirely.
Chandertal is most beautiful early in the morning when the wind is calm and the lake is quite reflective. You will have to leave your vehicle a kilometer before the lake (12 km from the diversion) and trek for rest of the distance.
The journey till Grmaphu is quite bad, but once you cross the tourist traffic infested Rohtang Pass, the journey becomes easy and fast paced till Manali.
Day 6: Manali – Mandi – Chandigarh – Delhi (540 KM)
It is time to head back home, though the journey is long, it is mostly in good condition (unless you get caught in tourist traffic.) So make sure to leave Manali relatively early.
Additional Circuits and Detours (requires additional days)
Option 1: You can break your journey till Rampur by stopping en route to Narkanda. This is a good option for those who do not wish to travel long distance.
Option 2: Sarahan as well as Sangla and Chitkul are worthy detours en route to Spiti Valley and will help you tick the Kinnaur Valley off your travel list.
Option 3: Tashigang (to be clubbed with a visit to Kibber.)
Option 4: Langza, Hikkim, Komic, and Demul are some of the least visited yet extremely scenic parts of Spiti Valley. If you have an additional day, don’t forget to visit these places. The post office at Hikkim is the highest in India (4,440 meters), only lower in altitude than the post office at Everest Base Camp. There are also homestays available in these villages if you’re interested in staying at off-beat places.
Option 5: Stay at Chandertal if you can withstand high altitude and do not mind traveling to the lake in the wee hours of the morning or staying there till late in the evening to see the real beauty of this pristine lake and photograph it.
In addition to these, you can head to Lahaul Valley or Pangi Valley (Sach Pass) after visiting the Spiti Valley, if you have time.
As mentioned earlier, you can travel to Spiti Valley in winter as well. However, Kunzum La is closed at that time, hence you will have to take the Shimla route to Kaza both the ways. And since the temperature in Spiti can dip to – 20 degree Celsius and the road can be quite slippery due to black ice, it requires a lot more effort on the part of travelers to visit Spiti at that time, as well as warm clothes, snow chains for the tyres and extra precautions to prevent the diesel from freezing at night.
If you’re interested in traveling to Spiti in winter, please post a query in the Itinerary section of BCMTouring, so that you can receive guidance based on travel dates and other requirements.
Even though numerous travelers are visiting Spiti Valley these days, it is still pristine in comparison to other hill stations in Himachal. Add to that, the majority of it falls in a national park (forest), hence it is prudent that you do not litter while traveling through Spiti and do not create a ruckus and respect locals and their traditions.
Also, please do not compare Spiti with Ladakh, before, during or after traveling to Spiti. It is like comparing apples with oranges. So you should enjoy The Middle Land (Spiti) for what it is, Spiti.
You can also find this travel guide on Amazon Kindle (for free on Kindle Unlimited) and thus carry it with you to while traveling, Delhi – Spiti Valley Travel Guide.