Spiti Valley is an incredible virgin paradise which is admired for its cold desert mountains, remoteness & rich cultural heritage. Situated in Himachal Pradesh, Lahaul Spiti displays a world completely different from the other parts of the state. A trip to Spiti is not just any ordinary trip, it is a complete personality & perception transforming journey.
Leh Ladakh has been a favourite destination of bikers, but nowadays, Spiti Circuit is gaining popularity. Some may even prefer Spiti circuit over Leh Ladakh because the journey to this inspiring land is equally thrilling, but it is still an untouched beauty.
A Bike trip to Spiti will allow you to enjoy nature in every form as you pass through mountains of mud, aqua green & blue rivers, ancient monasteries, old-fashioned habitations, and even get to see fossils.
Best Month to Visit Spiti Valley
There is a difference in touring the Spiti Valley and Spiti Circuit. You can visit Spiti Valley via Shimla all year round and return through the same route. But you need to know the opening dates of Rohtang Pass and Kunzum Pass to complete the Spiti Circuit. The roads get closed during winters and they are accessible only after clearing the snow. Spiti temperature drops to minus in winters.
It depends on the month to visit Spiti Valley with what you are going to be welcomed – Snow or Greenery. September is the best month (concerning weather & road conditions) for Spiti Circuit as the water streams on the roads are at their lowest. It is the best time to visit Spiti as you bid goodbye to the monsoon & you are yet to welcome the chilly winds & snow. September to October first week is a safe bet. We did Spiti Circuit in the first week of October.
On the contrary, if you are keen to enjoy the sight of snow-capped mountains, then you can do Spiti Circuit in June after the opening of Rohtang Pass. Get ready for adrenaline rush adventure as the snow starts melting in May-June which gives a way to water streams & water crossings on the road. To enjoy the scenic beauty, you have to take the challenge of riding on deteriorating roads.
Spiti circuit in July and other months of monsoon should be avoided as there are many landslide prone areas on the way. It’s not advisable to do Spiti Circuit in monsoon.
How to Plan Spiti Trip
To begin with, you must first decide whether you want to enter from Shimla & exit from Manali or vice versa. Shimla to Manali route is preferable as it becomes easy to acclimatise to high altitude. Another benefit is that you don’t need a permit to enter Spiti from Shimla, which is mandatory if you enter from Manali. Check the status of Kunzum Pass & Rohtang Pass before you plan your Spiti Trip. It is also advised to keep Spiti Circuit map to know where to look for help in case of emergency. Make a note of available petrol pumps, mechanic shops, mobile network in Spiti Valley, ATM on the route and Homestay in Spiti Valley. The complete detail of all requisites and know-how required during Spiti Circuit is available at the end of the blog.
Spiti Circuit Itinerary
Here is a Spiti Circuit Itinerary that we followed to reach Lahaul Spiti from Delhi and return back via Chandratal – Rohtang Pass – Manali.
Day 1: Delhi to Narkanda, Himachal Pradesh – 410 Kms – 12 Hrs Approx.
We, a group of 4 friends on 2 bikes, started our journey from Ghaziabad at around 6 AM. After having breakfast at a Dhaba near Murthal, we crossed Shimla at around 12 PM and reached Narkanda at 6 PM. Narkanda is the most preferred night halt for bikers. You can easily get hotels in Narkanda if you reach on time. You can book HPTDC Hotel Hatu in advance from the website http://hptdc.nic.in/ohrs/PublicPages/PubHome.aspx if you are looking for a decent room. For a night, it costs around Rs.2500 to Rs.3200. There are a number of budget hotels in Narkanda too. A delay can reduce the chances of getting good hotels in Narkanda, so make sure to be on time.
Day 2: Narkanda to Kalpa – 175 Kms – 6 Hrs Approx.
We left Narkanda early in the morning to reach Kalpa before sunset. Road condition is good till Rampur but it gets tricky after Karcham dam. Road to Sangla & Chitkul diverts from the dam. You can spend a day in Chitkul also. The detail of the Delhi to Chitkul drive is given here https://tripohlic.com/2017/11/03/delhi-narkanda-sangla-chhitkul-kalpa/
As we have already been to Sangla & Chitkul, we skipped it this time and continued towards Reckong Peo to reach Kalpa. Due to some ongoing construction work, the road is in a bad condition after the dam, which gets better from Reckong Peo till Kalpa.
Welcome the sight of beautiful snow-capped mountains from Reckong Peo and they will follow you till Kalpa. Have some thukpas in the small market of Kalpa and enjoy the sight of Kinnaur Kailash. You can also visit the famous Narayan Nagini temple in Kalpa & Chandika Mata temple. There are limited staying options in the market area. Search for a room that offers the view of Kinnaur Kailash and if you are lucky enough, you can witness the changing colours of the peak that happens at different time on a clear day.
Day 3: Kalpa to Nako – 100 Kms – 5 Hrs Approx
We bid goodbye to Kalpa at 11 AM. After Kalpa, the road gets a bit scary till Pooh. The pathway shows no sign of habitation having rough mountains, dangerous inclines, sharp cuts and road full of potholes.
A few kilometers before Nako, you start getting the feel of Spiti as you ride through hairpin bends and narrow roads. The sight of bold standing scary mountains of rocks changes to mountains of sand, stretched mud plains and a good road to ride bike.
We reached Nako around 4 PM and stayed in a guest house. There was no electricity in Nako for the last 2 days and our mobile phones had no battery and we could not charge it because of no electricity.
You get only the BSNL network in Nako, that too at selected areas. We requested a local to make a call, standing near a pole, which was the only area to catch network. That was the most enjoyable night of our whole Spiti Trip as we did candle light dinner & danced like crazy in no lights. Well, one can enjoy in limited resources if the company is good.
Day 4: Nako to Dhankar via Gue & Mud Village – 210 Kms – 9 Hrs
While having breakfast at a restaurant, we met a foreigner couple – Coni and Inna. At that time, we were strangers but later on, we became friends as they met us all through the journey at different destinations.
This was one of the hectic days as we tried to cover Pin Valley National Park, Mud Village & Gue (in limited fuel). Knowing that our destination is same, Hemant Khatmuria, a solo rider from Delhi joined our group when we were leaving for Gue at around 7 AM.
There was news of stones sliding at Sumdo, which is a landslide prone area. BRO was working with heavy machinery to clear the roads of continuously falling stones. They stopped us for around a half & hour for clearance work and asked to cross the area one by one, maintaining some distance between the vehicles.
After crossing Sumdo, there is a diversion – the left goes to Tabo & Dhankar which was our stoppage for the day and the right goes to Gue village. It’s an off road 8 Kms drive to Gue. It’s a less populated village with a few families residing there and one may not even see a single person in the village.
The Gue Mummy in the Gue Monastery is a 550 year old, well-preserved mummy of a monk with teeth, nails and intact skull, which looks amazing! And yes, we met the same foreigner couple in Gue village.
Coming back from Gue, we continued towards Tabo and then reached Mud Village, which is in Pin Valley. Again, it is a less populated village with a few eateries. We had our lunch in the Mud village & dropped the plan to visit Pin Valley National Park as we were short of time & fuel. We managed to reach Dhankar Monastery at around 6 PM & stayed there.
There are two monasteries – the old one & the new one. Staying option was available in the new one. The best part of staying in Dhankar Monastery is beer on the menu, which surprised us all. Singing, dancing & rejoicing, we spent the night to wait for the next beautiful morning.
Day 5: (Dhankar to Kibber via Langza, Hikkim, Komic) – 97 Kms – 6 Hrs
We woke up around 9 AM and got ready after breakfast at 11 AM. We were surprised to find Coni and Inna in the same monastery. We exchanged greetings and then left the monastery with good memories for Langza, which is famous for fossils of prehistoric aquatic creatures.
This village above 14,000 ft is believed to be submerged under the Tethys sea, some millions of years ago, and the fossils of marine animals in this area justify the same. You will find ladies, young boys & girls selling fossils. You can yourself locate them under the rocks; I found a few. However, carrying fossils is illegal.
Crossing the area, we moved towards the world’s highest village with roads, Komic and the world’s highest post office in Hikkim. The roads are smooth, narrow and confusing. It’s a pleasure to drive on these roads.
As per our itinerary, we had to reach Kaza for night stay, but as we got late, we decided to stay in Kibber after visiting the epic Key Monastery. There are a very few staying options in Kibber village. It is better to stay in the Key Monastery if you are planning to spend a night in the Kibber.
There were no lights & no people on the road when we reached Kibber village. It became difficult for us to search a hotel in Kibber. After a little struggle, we got just one room in a Homestay with a shared bathroom. We had no choice but to agree with it. However, later on we got to know that we are sharing our bathroom with none other than Coni &Inna. It was a surprise for all of us to meet again. We offered them drinks and had a good conversation in the night.
Day 6: Kibber to Kaza – 19 Kms – 2-3 Hrs
Waking up at 10 AM, we got ready for Kaza which was some 19 Kms down Kibber. On reaching Kaza, we searched for a mechanic to fix a punctured tyre of our friend’s bike. You can easily get a mechanic, chemist shop and restaurants in Kaza.
The beauty of Kaza works as a magnet to pull the creative people from all over the country and abroad. They have made Kaza quite a happening place.
After fixing the tyre, we rested in a hotel. It was then, one of our friends started feeling uneasy and his nose began to bleed. A pharmacist suggested us to take him to a doctor, but our journey-mate, Hemant, suggested taking a puff from oxygen cylinder which he was carrying with him and luckily, the puff from the oxygen cylinder made him well. We enjoyed the night and were super-excited for the next day to Chandratal.
Day 7: Kaza to Chandratal via Kunzum Pass – 55 Kms – 6-7 Hours
This day we actually realised we are doing Spiti Circuit. Crossing Kunzum pass, Chota Dhara, numerous water streams and sliding over wet boulders – every tidbit gave us an amazing experience. The road to Kunzum Pass is all up and down with muddy narrow cuts, pebbles & stones – all in all challenging. But it is worth putting the efforts to behold the mesmeric beauty of Chandratal Lake. The closer you get to the lake, the narrower roads become.
We stayed in a camp for Rs.800 per person at Chandratal. Camps are located 2.5 kms before the Chandratal lake as camping is not permitted near the lakeside. From the camp area, bike can go up to 1.5 kms and then you have to trek for 10 mins to reach the lake. It is an average trek leading to an awe-inspiring view of the Chandratal Lake. Keep clicking pictures until you don’t get the best one for facebook cover pic (as I got mine).
After clicking numerous pictures and beholding the exquisiteness of the place, we came back to the camp. The road before the trek is also not in a good condition, so you can trek all the way from the campsite to the lake if you love trekking, otherwise skip it.
We played carom & ludo in the camp, did bonfire, had dinner and spent a memorable night in Chandratal with many stars twinkling in the sky. This was one of the hectic days, but the deadliest one was awaiting us.
Day 8: Chandratal to Manali – 140 Kms – 8 Hrs
We left Chandratal around 10 AM and we were the last one to leave the place, being lazy souls. However, the rest was worth taking as we had the bumpiest ride this day. The nightmare road begins after Chatru with river-bed type roads, boulders and water crossings. There were actually no roads on the Batal Gramphu stretch. I suffered a bad backache going through the bouncy camel rides.
We were relieved on reaching the Rohtang Pass as we rode over buttery smooth roads after many days. Snow showers welcomed us on Rohtang road and disappeared after a few minutes.
On reaching Manali, Hemant continued his journey towards Delhi while we decided to stay for a night in Manali at our previously visited hotel to recollect memories.
Day 9: Manali to Delhi – 540 Kms – 14 Hrs
We took the most stupid decision of our whole trip this day. We left the hotel at around 11 AM for Delhi and took a break to get some bike repairing work done. It wasted a hell lot of time and we managed to leave Manali only after 4 PM. It was the scariest ride for all of us as we were exhausted and hell sleepy. The tiredness of the complete Spiti trip was pushing us to take rest, but we kept riding throughout the night.
Taking many stops at Dhabas for tea to stay awake, we managed to reach Delhi by 7 AM. On reaching Delhi, we realised that Delhi is such a noisy city. We felt to have come from a different planet and Delhi seemed overcrowded where life is running too fast. We felt disconnected and discomforted with the hustle bustle of city life.
It took me at least a week to get back to my normal self, but I still can’t get over the incredible feeling of being in Spiti, staring at the mountains, admiring the clear sky, the almighty snow-capped peaks and swiftly flowing rivers.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND ON SPITI TRIP
Petrol Pumps after Shimla
• Narkanda – Must top up here
• Rekong Peo
• Kaza – Do not forget to top up at Kaza as the next petrol pump is at Manali.
You should preferably top up at Narkanda, Rekong Peo and Kaza. We missed at Rekong Peo and faced the consequences. We bought petrol in black from a shop located in between Nako & Sumdo. Ask the locals for petrol if you get trapped in such a situation.
Mechanics in Spiti Valley
• Sangla (If you are visiting Sangla & Chitkul)
• Reckong Peo
When you are on Spiti Circuit, you need to keep in mind where to find a mechanic. It is also advisable to carry your own tool kit, especially air filling pump & puncture repair kit, because at many places, there is no mechanic shop. Pooh to Kaza stretch has no shop, but you can get a plenty of options of mechanic in Kaza. After Kaza, mechanics will be available in Manali.
ATM in Spiti Valley
• Reckong Peo
ATMs in remote villages may or may not have cash. So, it is advisable to keep sufficient money with you. Especially after Kalpa, you should keep a good amount of cash. We withdrew money from an ATM in Kalpa and we were successful at the third one, after unsuccessful attempts at two ATMs with ‘No Cash’.
Phone Network in Spiti
You will face network issues in Sangla & Chitkul and to almost all places after Kalpa in case of mobile network other than BSNL. Only BSNL/MTNL works in Spiti Valley including Sangla, Chitkul, Nako, Tabo, Kaza and they too remain on & off throughout the Spiti trip. Airtel provides the second best connectivity, but even that won’t work after Kalpa. You can ask the locals for the pay phona e.
No network connectivity is available at Chandratal, Kunzum Pass & Batal.
Medical Facility in Spiti
You are advised to carry a first aid kit including medicine for headache, body pain, fever, nausea, stomach ache, cough, cold, bandage & so on. Besides this, medical facilities are available in Narkanda, Reckong Peo, Chango, Tabo, Kaza & Kiato (Gramphu Batal Kaza Road).
Homestays in Spiti
Do not worry about hotels and homestay in Spiti valley. Be sure to reach before the night and you will get many options for accommodation in Spiti. At many places, locals offer their home for a night stay, so do not hesitate to ask locals if you don’t get a hotel.
(PS: The time taken to travel a distance depends on an individual’s speed, weather & road conditions at that time. So, consider the mentioned driving time as indicative only).
For any other query related to Spiti Circuit, feel free to comment below.
Happy Riding to all the Riders!!!