Popularly known as National Highway 22 or NH 22, Hindustan Tibet Road has been around since 1850, when the initial construction began. This road starts in Ambala in the Indian state of Haryana, passing through Chandigarh, Shimla, finally winding down at Khab on the Tibet border.
Spiti Valley is one of the most remote and picturesque places you will ever travel to. It is a desert mountain valley and the rough terrain, mountains all around, gushing streams, Spiti River, high altitude lakes and monasteries make this place a mountain wonderland. Spiti literally means “the middle land” and it is called so due to its location between India and Tibet. Spiti Valley is a part of the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh with its headquarters in Kaza, situated at 12,500 feet. The popular Kunzum Pass situated at 15,059 feet, separates Spiti from Lahaul.
The Manali – Kaza highway opens up to the waiting travellers around June- July, and the months following that see the Spiti Valley bustling with a plethora of adventure enthusiasts. The time before that, primarily May and June, is perfect to explore the tranquility of the place by taking a road trip along the Hindustan Tibet Highway. This is a perfect getaway to taste adventure and get away from the summer heat. The trip starts in the City Beautiful – Chandigarh, and over a course of 10 days takes you to Sangla Valley, crossing Shimla, and further goes to Kinnaur Valley and Spiti via Nako. There is so much that you will get to experience on this thrilling road trip - From visiting age-old monasteries to experiencing the local life in the homestays to riding a Yak. Hindustan Tibet Highway is often called the most treacherous road in the world and you will get to experience it firsthand.
If you love adventure and road trips are your thing, then there’s nothing stopping you from joining the posse for the Hindustan Tibet Highway Tour.
DAY 1: Drive from Chandigarh – Shimla (7,238 feet / 3-4 hours / 113 KM)
Our trip begins in Chandigarh from where we pick you up and drive to Shimla. The drive is smooth and pleasant and it’s only after Pinjore that the winding roads begin. We stop by on the way to grab lunch and then continue towards Shimla. We reach Shimla by early evening and check in to the hotel. Since the drive is not exhausting we can spend the evening exploring the Mall Road, Ridge and even the old markets of the beautiful hill town. You would totally love the shopping experience here, as the roads are free of traffic, and the architecture is reminiscent of the British Era! We return to the hotel for an overnight stay and prepare ourselves for the higher altitudes in the days to come.
DAY 2: Drive from Shimla – Sarahan – Sangla – Chitkul (8,900 feet /6-7 hours /246 KM)
On day two of our Hindustan Tibet Road Trip, we drive towards the village of Sarahan known for the Bhimakali Temple. The path leading up to this village is lined with Pine and Oak trees and makes the drive absolutely refreshing. We also cross many streams, fields and orchards on the way, dotted with slate-roofed houses. Our next stop is Sangla, which is known as the Land of Gods. The way from Sarahan to Sangla is accompanied by the effervescent Sutlej River, making the journey exquisitely pleasant. You would fall in love with the simplistic beauty of this place and also the way people live here in perfect harmony with nature. You could visit the temples here which stand in the foreground of pine and fir trees. The last leg of today’s journey would be a beautiful drive from Sangla to Chitkul. With every corner unimaginably beautiful, this place would lead to photo frenzy. We will come back to Sangla and camp there for the night.
DAY 3: Drive from Sangla - Kalpa – Nako (12,000 feet / 6 – 7 hours / 140 KM)
Day three is filled with excitement as we move towards Kalpa, passing through Reckong Peo. Foreign Nationals entering Spiti through this route need to obtain a permit that can be done through a quick process in Reckong Peo. We drive for another 7 KM after Peo and find ourselves in the splendid Kalpa, dotted with pine trees. Kalpa is believed to be the winter abode of Lord Shiva. This is beyond doubt one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places you would ever visit. The spectacular sunrise over the Kinner Kailash Range and Jordon Peaks would turn the vistas crimson. We take a short drive to Kothi, to visit a temple dedicated to Goddess Chandika. Post that, we move towards Nako. The scenery now starts to change its colour from green to brown. We keep moving through Kinnaur and enter the Hindustan Tibet Road, often touted as the world’s most treacherous road. We take a fuel stop at Puh, which is also the last fueling point on this route till Kaza, and then keep driving toward Nako, originally known as Kyangoh. Nako is at approximately 12000 feet above sea level and is a great place to experience Buddhist culture and traditions.
This village offers many sights to behold, like the Nako Monastery and an oval shaped lake surrounded by mountains. Relax and let nature work her magic on you. Spend the night overlooking the Nako Lake from the comforts of your guesthouse.
DAY 4: Drive from Nako – Tabo – Dhankar (12,774 feet / 4 – 5 hours / 94 KM)
On this day we drive to Tabo, housing the popular Tabo Monastery which is more than 1000 years old and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monastery complex has an entry of earthen walls and the interiors contain many spectacular frescoes. Attempts have been made by the Archaeological Survey of India to restore these paintings. These pieces of art primarily portray the lifecycle of Buddha, and also instances from the Jataka Tales.
Tabo is one of those rare places in Spiti that has cell-phone reception. So it would be a good idea to make all the important calls and fuel up your stomach, before leaving for Dhankar. Dhankar stands atop the confluence of Pin and Spiti Rivers, and is known for a 1200 year old monastery, aptly called Dhankar Monastery. Due to its precarious placement on a rocky, wind eroded precipice, it was declared to be one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world by the World’s Monument Fund. From here we can take a short trek to the Dhankar Lake. Later retire to your homestay and spend some time with the locals, getting a better understanding of their way of life, while enjoying authentic local cuisines.
DAY 5: Drive from Dhankar – Lalung – Demul – Kaza (14,435 feet / 4 – 5 hours / 92 KM)
Today we start the day with a hot breakfast at the homestay and then head out towards Lalung, which is a high altitude picturesque village in Spiti Valley. It is home to the Lalung Monastery which is popular for its three cornered Buddha, seemingly looking in all directions at the same time. Lalung is at the base of the Tangmar Mountains, and the locals believe that these mountains are the abode of their Gods; the changing colours of the mountains are reflective of the changing moods of the Gods. Interesting indeed!
After this we leave for Demul which is further cut off from the rest of the villages. During the harvest season Demul comes alive. We could also take a short Yak Safari here and even try our hand at learning to make momos with the locals. Home to less than 50 families, this village epitomizes solitude. After this we drive further and by evening reach Kaza and spend the night in a hotel there.
DAY 6: Drive from Kaza – Ki Monastery – Tashigang – Gette – Chicham – Kibber (13,800 feet / 3-4 hours / 38 KM)
Today we take a short drive to visit the extremely popular and majestic Ki Monastery. We will make a stop at the base of the hill on which it is located. This will give us the perfect opportunity to capture the grandeur of this monastery. Ki Monastery is at an altitude of 13,667 feet and is the largest in the Spiti Valley. It is a very fort like structure and it stands overlooking the serpentine Spiti River. This monastery is home to almost 250 monks, who daily perform a praying ceremony here. After spending some time here we drive for another hour and reach Kibber, which is one of the highest inhabited villages in the world. Kibber is home to around 80 families in all who support themselves by farming. Kibber is verdure galore, thanks to the green pastures. We spend some time here exploring the place and then return to Kaza for overnight stay in the hotel.
DAY 7: Drive from Kaza – Komik – Langza – Kaza (14,800 feet / 2-3 hours / 50 KM)
Today is going to be pretty exciting as we drive to one of the remotest regions in the world. We drive to Komik, the highest village in Asia at 14800 feet. This village has a population of just 84 people who live in absolute isolation, cut off from the rest of the world for the better part of the year. Komik Village is nothing short of a fairytale land with its snow-white mountain peaks and soft brown pastures. You would also get a chance to visit the Komik Monastery.
This place would also offer an opportunity to spot some of the common animals of the region, namely Blue Sheep, Tibetan Wolf, Red Fox, Hare, Snow Cock, Rock Pigeon, and Himalayan Griffin.
Our next stop is the ancient village of Langza, which, in prehistoric times, was a part of the Tethys Sea and fossil remnants can still be found here. This village is almost 1000 years old and is perfect to walk around. After exploring the place a little more we return to Kaza and rest in the hotel for the night.
DAY 8: Drive from Kaza – Kalpa (9,711 feet / 9-10 hours / 198 KM)
On day eight of the Hindustan Tibet Highway Trip we start retracing our steps and head out towards Kalpa. We spend the night at a guesthouse here.
DAY 9: Drive from Kalpa – Narkanda (8,884 feet / 6-7 hours / 158 KM)
Today we leave Kalpa and drive to Shimla. On the way we take a break at Narkhanda, which is approximately 60 KM from Shimla. Narkanada is also known as the Gateway to Apple Country. It is a scenic place situated between Sutlej and Giri Valleys. We will stay overnight at a hotel/guesthouse in Narkanda.
DAY 10: Drive from Narkanda – Chandigarh (180 KM / 5-6 hours)
Today is the last day of this exceptionally thrilling and adventurous Hindustan Tibet Road Trip, as we drive back from Narkanda to Chandigarh. While the trip will end, the memories would stay etched in your hearts for the rest of your life. We will drop you back in Chandigarh from where you can resume your onward journey.
20th May 2016 | 3rd June 2016
Maximum Altitude: 14,800 Feet
Total Distance: 1309 KM
Temperatures: Summers (May - October) – Maximum 25 degree C & Minimum 5 degree C.
Winters (November – April) – Temperatures drop to 45 degrees C below zero.
Handling altitude sickness
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) can occur to anyone at an altitude above 10,000 feet – which is the average elevation of Spiti Valley.
Common symptoms are headache, disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, nausea, coughing, irregular breathing, breathlessness, lack of energy, difficulty in passing urine, lack of concentration and chest gurgles.
To avoid AMS, it is extremely important to acclimatize well to the conditions and the altitude. Once you reach Spiti Valley, it is advisable to take complete rest for a day before starting any physical excursion. AMS can be alleviated or avoided by slowing the pace of ascent. It is for this reason that we usually recommend a minimum of seven days for a tour of Spiti valley. This gives the body plenty of time to adapt to the increasing altitude.
WHAT TO PACK?
If you are buying new shoes for your Spiti Valley Tour, please remember to use them for at least a month before you commence your holiday.