10-Day Road Trip Itinerary to Spiti Valley & Kinnaur
Embarking on Lahaul & Spiti road trip completely justifies the statement – “It is not about the destination but the journey that creates memories and weaves them into threads of eternity.” Be it the barren mountains you are driving adjacent to, gushing streams of river flowing alongside, panache of the floating clouds clumsily moving across the blue skies or the dangerous roads you have tied up your soul to – Every bit of my traveller’s bone, flesh and blood feels accomplished after returning from a 10 days road trip to Lahaul & Spiti via the Shimla to Manali circuit. Was it easy? Was it tiring? What all do you need to know before leaving? Is the circuit doable in 10 days? – A lot of questions, read on as I transport my mind back to pen down everything you need to know.
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Suggested 10 Days Itinerary for Kinnaur and Lahaul & Spiti
The itinerary is a 10-day suggested road trip starting from New Delhi. There are two routes for completing the Spiti Valley circuit – It can be done with Manali as starting point and ending in Shimla or can end in Manali with Shimla as the entry point. We preferred doing the road trip starting from Delhi using the Shimla to Manali route. Complete suggested 10 days Itinerary for Kinnaur and Lahaul & Spiti from Delhi.
Day – 1 and 2 (New Delhi – Narkanda)
Start on Friday night, considering you are working and low on leaves. Stop at Murthal or any other Dhabas for food in between. We started at around 6 pm from Delhi and reached Shimla at around 4 am. Escape the hustle bustle of Shimla and drive to lesser explored cousin of Shimla, Narkanda. Spend the day and stay the night at Narkanda. Drive time – 12 hours approx.
Day – 3 (Narkanda – Chitkul via Karcham, Sangla and Raksham)
Start early from Narkanda and leave for Chitkul in the beautiful district of Kinnaur. While on the way to Chitkul, try to take a fewer stop to reach the destination fast. Stay at River side camps in Chitkul or pitch your own tent. Drive time – 9 to 11 hours approx
Day – 4 (Chitkul to Nako via Karcham)
We had Kalpa in mind but made last minute changes in itinerary and planned to stay overnight at Nako village. Nako Village is a high altitude village in Kinnaur valley and gives a phenomenal view of the mountains. Drive Time – 8 to 10 hours approximately.
Day – 5 (Nako to Kaza via Gue Mummy and Tabo)
With two major stop in Gue and Tabo, head straight away to Kaza, headquarter of Spiti Valley. Sumdo marks the start of Lahaul & Spiti District and ends Kinnaur district. Stay at Kaza overnight. (You can include Dhankar Monastery in the itinerary but make sure you leave early from Nako or choose to stay back at Dhankar(We skipped Dhankar Monastery and lake). Drive time – 7 to 9 hours approx.
Day – 6 (Kaza to Losar via Langza – Hikkim – Komic – Kye – Kibber)
It was by-far the most eventful day in our 10-days road trip and since we were running out of time, we had to manage things really quick. Start early from Kaza and explore villages of Langza, Hikkim, Komic, Kye Monastery and Kibber on the way. Stay at Kibber if it starts to get dark or drive to Losar. We stayed overnight at Losar keeping Chandrataal in mind. Drive Time – 9 to 11 hours depending on stops.
Day – 7 (Losar to Chandrataal via Kunzum Pass)
Start early from Losar towards Chandrataal via Kunzum Pass. Keep in mind the roads are bad and you cannot expect to drive at a speed more than 10km/hr. Spend as much time as you can in Chandratal, the beauty is enthralling. Stay at camps in Chandrataal or pitch your own tent. Drive time – 3 to 4 hours.
Day – 8 (Chandrataal to Manali via Batal and Chhatru)
Start very early because it is going to be the toughest day on road. The route from Chandrataal to Manali is dangerous and difficult. The roads up till Rohtang are in extremely bad condition and it is actually off road route. There are around 21 or more water streams or Nalas flowing through the road, Dongri Nala being the biggest and most difficult ones. The earlier you start, lesser your chances of being stuck. Stay overnight in Manali. Drive Time – 12 hours approximately.
Day – 9 (Manali –Prashar Lake – Mandi)
It is up to you how you want to spend you 9th Day and perhaps the last day of your road trip before heading back to New Delhi next day. You can choose to lazily spend your day in cafes of Old Manali, visit nearby Solang Valley, go for cycling or visit Prashar Lake near Mandi. We choose to visit Prashar Lake. Stay Overnight in Mandi. Drive Time – 4 to 5 hours approximately.
Day – 10 (Mandi – New Delhi)
The last day of our road trip, we preferred taking it slow and steadily. Start from Mandi around morning 9 to 10 am and drive all the way to New Delhi via Chandigarh. Drive Time – 9 to 11 hours approximately.
Why A Road Trip to Spiti Valley?
A lot of people do Spiti & Lahaul on public transportation which is fine but as an ardent dreamer of this place, ever since I saw the first glimpses – A road trip to this remote corner of the country made its welcoming entry into my travel bucket list. A road trip might be a little expensive if you are travelling solo or swear upon budget travelling but there are ways you can find people to travel along on this journey of lifetime. I had it in my mind to do the 10 days Spiti Circuit via public transportation and hitch hiking but chucked the idea when the road trip made its ways within my expected budget. A road trip to Spiti & Lahaul from Delhi via Shimla to Manali and back to Delhi is easily doable in Rs 50000 or less (for two persons). (I will discuss about the budgeting in detail). So, why a road trip is so rejuvenating and something you must not miss.
Take it at your own pace
The best part of doing a road trip to Spiti & Lahaul is you get the privilege to take things at your own pace. Public transportation is limited and buses or shared cabs mostly ply at a particular time. If you are not a morning riser, you are at risk of squandering your days’ mate. With limited leaves from office, wasting one day itself might end up costing you more or cutting down a part of your itinerary. We hired a cab from Delhi and did the complete circuit at a very relaxed pace without having to worry about missing the only bus to next destination. A road trip with your own vehicle or hired can mean liberty to explore a little more.
Photographing Ever Changing Landscapes
Ah! Did I not mention before how Lahaul & Spiti and Kinnaur districts of Himachal never fail to be photographer’s paradise? My apologies because I did not but the changing landscapes from verdant to barren are worth every capture. As we headed from Delhi and reached Narkanda via Shimla, the verdant landscapes with pine trees mesmerised our eyes. Banks of Baspa River nestled between the mighty Himalayas and colourful flowers in Chitkul was another tease by nature. It was all topped by barren mountains in Spiti Valley and the drool worthy Chandrataal Lake overlooked by snow capped peaks. The valley, roads, mountains, monasteries, pine trees, river and everything else loved the camera attention.
Explore what You Please
A road trip means you are the boss of the itinerary and it can be amended and created as per your convenience and wish list. A road trip to Spiti Valley means you can explore anything on the way, off the road and offbeat without fearing getting abandoned. It also gives you the liberty to cut off certain things from the itinerary. You can decide the number of days or time you want to spend in a particular place and how you want to explore. The best part of the road trip is you can stay wherever you want not fearing about bad public transport connectivity.
Saves Time and Energy
Spiti Valley is more about the journey and less about the destination. The best and most savouring places are seen en route somewhere and can be captured as memories only when you take up a road trip. Instead of wasting your time waiting for a bus or cab to arrive and shed away all the energy, a road trip makes it much more comfortable and saves your energy. A road trip means you can dump all your belongings while you set on foot for offbeat destinations and places. You can pack more essentials while driving through the place on the car.
Plan Your Own Flexible Itinerary
Planning an itinerary is something I believe is important before visiting a place for the first time. I prefer planning a rough itinerary and make changes when and where it is possible. A road trip to Spiti Valley and Lahaul offers a lot of things to see and explore within a limited time meaning missing out on few places. It depends on what you can afford to miss and what is a must inclusion. I amended the itinerary from time to time on the way. In short, a road trip means no hitch hiking, no planned routine, ample scope to explore, taking enough water and food supplies, packing adequately and spending nights at places you wish to.
Important Things to Take Care during the Road Trip
Choice of Vehicle – You are travelling to one of the most remote corners of the country meaning there will be stretches of roads that are extremely rickety. I strongly recommend you to hire an SUV or drive SUV while on the road trip to avoid getting stuck on roads, water streams and make the journey comfortable. If you have a choice, avoid taking small cars.
Hello BSNL – Nothing works apart from BSNL in Spiti & Lahaul. In Chitkul as well only BSNL works. If you are on a 10-day road trip, make sure you have your BSNL number with some amount of balance inserted in your phone.
Stock up Essentials – Remember you are embarking on a road trip to Spiti Valley which means resources are limited. Stock up important medicines, food and whatever you think is important for you during the journey. Some stretches like one towards Losar, Losar to Chandrataal and Batal to Manali do not have pit stops for food. Stock up some food and water accordingly.
Withdraw Cash for Trip – Throughout the journey, we did not find a single place that supported card transaction due to lack of internet connectivity. There are ATMs in Tabo, Kaza and few other places but do not take chances for you are stranded without cash. Carry enough cash to sustain your road trip till Manali.
Petrol Pumps are Limited – There are limited petrol pumps on the way so make sure you have enough fuel in your car. Post-Narkanda, I guess there are maybe one or two fuel stations on the way. Make sure you fill up the tank at Kaza to sustain the drive the Manali.
Pack wisely for the Trip – The weather changes drastically and within seconds that means you need to pack right. Make sure you carry warm clothes because few places are really cold. Carry an insulating jacket for places like Chandrataal. It gets really hot during the day due to direct sunlight which means it is advisable to carry some light clothes as well. Carry a strong sunscreen, shades and protect your skin from tanning. Carry proper shoes, gum boots, caps etc.
Phew!! As much as I enjoyed writing the article, I realised it has been a long one and perhaps, I should stop. But, promising to be back with a complete blog on budgeting and cost associated; this is just the beginning of my experience in the magical land of Lahaul & Spiti. A road trip worth every penny, a road trip that should make its way into every traveller’s bucket list.