Chitkul – Odyssey of Last Inhabited Indian Village
Camping under millions of twinkling stars as the night bleeds its darkness in the wrap of Himalayas was once a stuff of dreams, until it was actually happening, right in the moment. My tender emotions caressed my mind while I sat on the banks of Baspa River listening to the sound of the gurgling river. The pine trees unapologetically created a shadow in the realm of moon light; the faraway mountains lured me with its glimpses and the nip in the air never felt so good – Good Lord! Sitting on a stone few steps ahead of my pitched tent in the last inhabited Village of Chitkul, busy weaving memories, I experienced Elysium right in the middle of the sinister night. 🙂 🙂
Chitkul – Paradise Untouched by Claws of Urbanisation
Chitkul, the last inhabited village near Indo-Tibet Border, marks its pristine existence surrounded by the mighty Himalayas in Baspa Valley of Kinnaur District, Himachal Pradesh. The serenity of the place is an unaccustomed experience for all the city dwellers. It is a gorgeous village surrounded by pine trees with the Baspa River gurgling right across it. The iconic wooden houses stand out to be an epitome of marvellous architecture, sparsely populated, is surrounded by the verdant roar of nature. As part of my Spiti Valley Road trip, not experiencing the outlandish Baspa Valley and camping by the riverside in Chitkul, would be more than a mistake.
Chitkul happened to be my second pit stop on my road trip to Spiti Valley, a decision I will cherish for all the years to come. The best time to visit this piece of surreal existence is around August and September when the flowers are in full bloom. 🙂 🙂 The flowers throw a fresh burst of colours soothing the eyes of an onlooker. During the months of June and July, it is just the start of flower blooms, as the tiny colours start to slowly spread across the grass. The wooden houses, Apple Cultivation, view of the mesmerising pine trees and everything about this places is nothing but exotic. It was an out of the world feeling finally pitching our own tent and sleeping under millions of stars, with the sound of river and wind tickling my senses.
How to Reach Chitkul?
There are different ways to reach this bundle of joy of the place. For me, being on road trip, it was a pit stop en route Spiti Valley.
While on Road Trip – If you are travelling by your own vehicle or a hired one, it is pretty straight forward to reach the place without the hassle of counting on public transport. We started our road trip from New Delhi with the first stop in Narkanda. The journey forward from Narkanda to Chitkul was en –route Rampur and Karcham. Do take care that there is a bifurcation of the roads from Karcham, with one route going to Reckong Peo and other to Chitkul near the JAYPEE Hydropower Dam. The road to Chitkul is en-route Sangla and Rakcham. The distance between Sangla and Karcham is around 16kms and Chitkul is 22kms ahead of Sangla. The roads are narrow, pebbled and the ride is rickety with a gorge running adjacent. Oh! The road from Sangla to Chitkul en route Rakcham opens your soul to some of the spectacular views of mountains, pine trees and the entire valley.
Reaching Chitkul on Public Transport – Chitkul being one of the frequented tourist places in Lower Kinnaur District has average road connectivity. There are buses available for Chitkul from both Shimla and Reckong Peo. The buses from Shimla are available early morning at around 6.00 to 6.30 am and reaches Chitkul after a rickety ride of 9 hours. Likewise, buses for Chitkul are also available from Reckong Peo post 6.30 am. There are a number of shared vehicles available from Sangla to Chitkul as well if you don’t end up getting a direct bus to Chitkul.
Accommodation Option in Chitkul
Chitkul has many cheap to budget option for accommodation for its new found interest amongst tourists and backpackers. Depending on your budget, you can opt for your accommodation. Here are some of the options for accommodation.
Quaint Wooden Homestays – There are many homestays overlooking the gorgeous Baspa Valley. The price of the homestays starts from Rs 500 per room and may extend to Rs 1200/-. The rates vary depending on the view.
Comfortable Resorts – There are a number of small to medium sized resorts with decent room and facilities. If you do not have the adventure bone in you and prefer sleeping only on comfortable beds, opt for Samaa Resorts. The off-season for the room is around Rs 1500/- and during the months of August and September, flowering season, the price may rise to Rs 2500.
Baspa River Camps – If you love listening to the sounds of nature and spend the night admiring the bliss of starry nights, this is the place for you. There is only one river camp in Chitkul and all the tents have essential modern amenities. You can check their website at www.basparivercamp.com. The price for camps is Rs 1500 – 2500/-.
For bookings, Call – 9418701460 / 08988210475.
Pitch Your Own Tent – A lot of travellers pitch their own tent by the banks of the river, including us. The joy of pitching your own tent is not comparable to anything else. You need to pay a rent of Rs 300/- to Baspa River Camp for pitching your tent.
Experience Chitkul at its Best
Chitkul, in itself, is no less than experiencing paradise. Away from the maddening crowd, away from the adversity of technology and away from everything disrupting, there are a lot of things a traveller can do in Chitkul. However, it all depends on the time you have. Being short on time, I could not explore much but just enjoy the perks of camping by the river side. It was a spectacular benediction of nature witnessing first rays of sun peeping through the towering mountains. It was a pleasure watching the sun playing hide and seek to change the shade of the pine trees. Basking in the warmth of the sun admiring the first flushes of tiny flowers was unbelievably soul soothing.
Book a Trek
If you have a few days to spare in the wilderness of Chitkul, book yourself a trek to Black Glacier. You can contact Baspa River Camp for arranging everything. It is a local trek that can be completed in a single day but a night camp for a day or two is recommended. There are other treks as well that you can attempt from Chitkul like Har Ki Dun (8 to 9 days), Rupin Pass(6 to 7 days), Kailash – Kinnaur Parikrama ( 3 to 4 days) and Lamkhaga Pass or Gangotri Trek ( 8 to 9 days).
Explore Chitkul on Foot
Chitkul is a beautiful village and exploring on foot through the nooks and corners is an experience in itself. The ornate wooden houses, exotic Apple Orchards and warmth in the heart of the people are everything that will make you fall in love with the place. You can opt to visit the only school in Chitkul, bond with the kids and leisurely move around gulping the aura of the place.
Bond over Food
Finding good food in such deserted location is a dream thing because all we expect is Maggie and Tea. The breakfast I had my taste bud satisfied with was truly delicious. I recommend you order Egg Paratha for your breakfast from Baspa River Camp, it is simple, nutritious and simply delicious. A village surrounded by mountains is not complete without Tea & Maggie. I had my best tea during my whole ten days road trip in Samaa Resort.
Stay overnight in Rakcham
This is conditional and depends on a number of days you want to spend here. The route from Chitkul to Rakcham till Sangla is extremely scenic. Be it driving adjacent the gorge, crushing on the faraway mountains or feeling overwhelmed being surrounded by pine trees, this place can make anyone fall in love. You can trek down to Rakcham and stay overnight at one of the camps. During the months of August and September, the place turns into a colourful drama with different flowers.
It was one of the most fulfilling experiences camping by the banks of Baspa River. As the darkness unfolded its veil, the sky lit impromptu with millions of stars. The gnarled feeling of wanderlust took a re-birth as the sound of the river transported me back to days when I dreamt of such panoramas. It was a satisfied solitude, the wind slowly playing with my hair, in the lap of this pristine paradise. It sure was the beginning of beautiful; the best is always yet to come.