“Faith is like the Himalaya mountains which cannot possibly change.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
10 Days Trip To Kinnaur Valley – North Himachal Travel
Himalayas enthrall me, since my youth, as I grew up in the Gangetic plains, mountains beckon me. I always dreamt of making a trip to the beautiful Kinnaur Valley in North Himachal Pradesh, my favorite state in India. After the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic hit us hard in India, I decided to escape in the laps of the Himalayas during fall. A trip to Kinnaur, “the land of fairy tales” seemed like a perfect plan.
About The Travel Itinerary To Kinnaur Valley – The Godly Land
The district of Kinnaur is a valley of alluring landscape about 235 km from the state capital, Shimla, located in the northeast corner of Himachal Pradesh bordering Tibet to the east. The terrain of Kinnaur is a nature’s oeuvre crafted with lush woods, meadows, lakes, apple orchards and hamlets. One can find an ideal blend of Indo-Tibetan influences on this splendid land. Having three high mountain ranges namely Zanskar, Greater Himalayas and Dhauladhar, encompassing valleys of Sutlej, Spiti, Baspa and their tributaries, this sublime terrain is a traveler’s paradise. Three wild life sanctuaries are also part of the district topography offering abundance of flora and fauna.
The valley is separated by two sides, lower Kinnaur and upper Kinnaur. Prominent towns forming lower Kinnaur are: Sangla, Chitkul, Reckong Peo and Kalpa. The upper Kinnaur is populated by the villages of Pooh, Khab, Chango, and Nako. The administrative headquarters of Kinnaur district is situated in Reckong Peo. The pious mountain peak of Kinnaur Kailash (Altitude 6050 m) is found in this district. With a huge Monolithic pillar, the peak is worshipped as Shiva Linga by Hindu devotees. Kinnaur district the is one of the smallest districts and least populated regions in Himachal.
Best Time for a trip to Kinnaur Valley – The Himalayan Climate
April To June (Spring/Summer): Right after the snow starts melting, the Himalayan woods in Kinnaur district look luxuriant with the backdrop of cerulean sky. When the cheery season of spring/summer comes knocking, the valley decks up with blossoming flowers. The weather becomes warmer and the land greener, this climate entices many travelers for a trip to Kinnaur Valley and other parts of Himachal Pradesh.
July to September (Rainy Season): The clouds over the mountain valleys look mystique during monsoon in Kinnaur Valley. But heavy downpours may cause landslides or flash floods disrupting road transports in Himachal Pradesh.
October And November (The Fall): I personally adore autumn in mountains as the fall foliage will be in full swing, the magical valley of Kinnaur will be painted in nature’s hues, like a palette of Van Gogh. I travelled to Kinnaur in the glorious month of October, when the valley is invigorated, after the passing of rain. The climate this time is pleasing with the sun shining bright through the indigo sky.
December To March (The Winter): There is a sharp decline in the mercury, come winter, in this valley of wonder. The longest of all seasons, parts of Kinnaur Valley witness heavy snow-fall during wintertime often blocking highways. The chilly cold months bring the least tourists except for skiing enthusiasts and other snow adventure seekers.
What To Pack For Kinnaur Valley – A Traveler’s Wardrobe
As an avid traveler, my philosophy is to travel light, but one must be prepared based on the season and routes of travel.
If venturing during Spring/Summer, light woolen clothes should suffice in the valley of Kinnaur. During rainfall, carrying umbrellas is a must and if possible raincoats to enjoy the monsoon in the mountains. Autumn in Kinnaur can surprise you with light snowfall in higher elevations, but overall this season is sunny and comfortably cold. Light winter jackets will warm you up just about right in the months of fall. The frosty winter months can be challenging in parts of Kinnaur Valley, with temperature decreasing way below zero. Without proper winter gears like thermal jackets, gloves it would be difficult to withstand the chill in Kinnaur Valley.
Cost of Trip To Kinnaur Valley – The Pocket Pinch
With flight fares, the price for Kinnaur trips will increase. For budget tours, one can avoid airports and avail other modes of transport, like trains or buses. On an allotment of Rs. 2000 per day, common tourists can comfortably spend days in Kinnaur Valley and get lavish arrangements. Food and accommodation is inexpensive in this part of Himachal Pradesh and travelers can afford facilities at a moderate cost.
How to Reach Kinnaur Valley – Mode of Transports
By Train – The Heritage Toy Train of Kalka to Shimla: The narrow gauge railways of Northern sector connects Kalka, a town in the Panchkula district of Haryana to Shimla, the capital city of Himachal Pradesh. The train journey sets through breathtaking views of the Himalayan mountains, with whistle-stops at picturesque townlets. The railway project was constructed under the British Government, Shimla being the summer capital for their regime. The UNESCO has attributed Kalka-Shimla Railways to the Mountain Railways of India World Heritage Site.
By Air: The Jubbarhatti domestic airport in Shimla is non-operational after the shutting down of Kingfisher Airlines. In recent times, Air India operates a flight form New Delhi to Kullu, 88 Kms away from Shimla. The International airports in New Delhi and Chandigarh connect the world map to the Northern parts of India. We took a flight on a sunny October morning to reach Chandigarh, the capital city of Punjab. From Chandigarh Airport we commenced our road trip to Shimla.
By Road: There are HRTC (Himachal Road Transport Corporation) buses from New Delhi running till Reckong Peo, the district headquarters of Kinnaur, an 18 hours long but rewarding journey. We booked an Innova from Chandigarh Airport and headed straight to Shimla, our first stop in Himachal Pradesh excursion. The road trip is a paradise on wheels and we could not wait to ascend to the altitude of Himachal Himalayas. It took just over 4 hours for us to enter Shimla, with occasional stopovers at view points.
My 10 Days Trip To Kinnaur Valley And Other Parts of North Himachal
This blog intends to take its audience on a journey to North Lower Kinnaur, touching base at Kaza, a town and the subdivisional headquarters of the remote Spiti Valley and Narkanda, a town and a Nagar Panchayat in Kumarsain subdivision of Shimla district.
Following was the course of our travel to North Himachal:
Chandigarh -> Shimla -> Sarahan -> Sangla -> Chitkul -> Sangla -> Kalpa -> Kaza -> Kalpa -> Narkanda -> Shimla -> Chandigarh
The particulars of the places shall unfold gradually in this article.
Day 1: Chandigarh To Shimla (4 Hours)
Once the summer capital of British India, Shimla is a fantastic hill station attracting thousands of tourists every year. Shimla is a place to experience the Himalayas in all its enigma along with colonial ambiance. According to one version, Shimla takes its name after “Shamla”, an avatar of Goddess Kali. In olden days, there used to be a temple of Goddess Kali on the Jakhu Hillside. During the British era, the idol of the Goddess was shifted to a newer place, now popular as the Kali Bari Temple. Famous for handicraft shops specializing in wooden toys and crafts, Shimla is truly a wonderland. The Shimla Mall or the pedestrian avenue is a cozy spot to roam, shop and dine. Some other places of renounce in Shimla include The Ridge, Christ Church, Viceregal lodge and Botanical Gardens, the State Museum.
Since we had a long and eventful expedition ahead, we took it slow and leisurely in Shimla and called it an early night.
Where To Stay In Shimla
Lodgings near Shimla Bus stand, at the heart of the city are cheaper and convenient. There are few homestays which offer warm hospitality. Our group accommodation was reserved in Hotel Peterhof, a heritage building which housed at least seven Viceroys and Governor Generals under British Monarchy. Now owned by HPTDC, Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation, Hotel Peterhof is a fascinating resort to stay in Shimla.
Day 2: Shimla To Sarahan Via Rampur (5 Hours)
Situated at a distance of 160 Kms from Shimla, Sarahan is the base-camp for numerous treks and is the gateway to Kinnaur Valley. Celebrated as one of the “Shakti Peethas”, the Bhima Devi or Bhima Kali temple in Sarahan is a place of pilgrimage. “The River Sutlej” flows quietly through the heart of this quaint town, near the old Indo-Tibetan road. Sarahan is cited as Shonitpur in ” The Puranas” and Sarahan Bushahr has been the summer capital of Bushahr kingdom, with Rampur Bushahr considered as the winter capital. We halted for a night in this hill station guarded by mighty snow peaks.
On our way to Sarahan, we took a pitstop at Rampur Bushahr, a town and municipal council in Shimla district. The current residence of the “Raja of Bushahr state” is at the Padam Palace, an architectural splendor of Himachal Pradesh. We were charmed at the sight of the palace and its all-encompassing view. From Rampur it was another one hour journey within the mystifying Himalayas to arrive at Sarahan.
Where To Stay In Sarahan
We were fortunate to board at The Srikhand, one of the best hotel experiences in Sarahan, an HPTDC initiative. Hotel Srikhand derives its name after the majestic Srikhand peak right ahead of the hotel. Conveniently located, the construction is inspired by the fascinating forms of the Bhimakali Temple. Our rooms in the hotel offered unforgettable view of the Srikhand peak and apple orchards. Hotel Srikhand ensures every guest the best of services and our stay at that establishment exceeded expectations. Few other economic homestays and motels extend their hospitalities and can be explored in this serene town.
Day 3: Sarahan To Sangla Via Karcham (3 Hours)
Elevated at 8,900 ft above sea-level, Sangla is an enchanting valley in the Kinnaur district by the Baspa River. Any trip to Kinnaur Valley will be imperfect sans the two jewels, Sangla and Chitkul. Abundant with orchards of exotic fruits like apple, apricots, walnuts; dense cedar and fir woodlands; glacial streams full of trout fish; Sangla is quintessentially the soul of our trip to North Himachal. A Tibetan wood carving center, Sangla valley is the perfect amalgamation of Buddhism with Hinduism. We could not help but spend at least a couple of days in this vivacious Valley.
The route from Sarahan to Sangla follows through Karcham, where we caught a glimpse of the Karcham Wangtoo Hydroelectric Plant on the Sutlej River. The dam and power station are located between the villages of Karcham and Wangtoo, earning them on vital spots on the map of Himachal Pradesh. The one hour drive from Karcham to Sangla might seem hazardous as the mountain roads are narrow with steep gradients, but the spectacular views will make up for the bumpy ride.
Kamru Fort : Sangla Sightseeing
Based at the village of Kamru, the ancient capital of the Bashahr principate, the Kamru fort is adorned with beautiful wooden carvings. Shaped like a five storey tower, the architecture of Kamru Fort is laudable and is a must visit destination in Sangla, Himachal Pradesh. The Kamru Fort stands at an altitude of 2600 meters above sea level and is only 2 km away from the beautiful Sangla Valley. The fort is perched at an arresting site Enveloped by snow capped mountains, thick forest, green meadows; streams and apple orchards. The admission to the fort is through a series of gateways and at the main gate, a remarkable statue of Lord Buddha greets the visitors. The Kamru Fort is a popular tourist attraction in the region, which is visited by a large number of tourists every day.
Where To Stay in Sangla
Sangla is a conspicuous town in Kinnaur Valley with markets, petrol stations, Bank ATMs, Post Office, Restaurants and affordable hotels. Here our accommodation was reserved the Hotel Mount Kailash. Established in 1996, Hotel Mount Kailash is the oldest hotel of Sangla Valley, still standing tall. Strategically located, surrounded by luscious forest and offering mesmerizing vista of Kinner Kailash, this hotel provides a 360 view of the valley. Nearby attractions include Kamru village, monastery and open football ground on one end, apple orchards on the other side of the Hotel Mount Kailash. We booked our rooms for two nights.
Day 4: Sangla To Chitkul Via Rakchham (2 Hours)
Rakchham, a relatively less travelled destination on the way to Chitkul from Sangla is at an elevation of 9500ft. Scantly populated, this village is inhabited by around 800 nomadic Kinnaurs. The men in Rakchham primarily take care of the herds of cattle whereas women tend to farming and household chores. During harsh winter the village is covered in thick snow and the tribes move to the lower grounds with warmer temperature. Arriving at this heavenly locale, we were enchanted by the green meadows on the laps of the mountains; we could not take our eyes of the place.
Chitkul – The Last Village Of India
After Rakchham, we ascended for another 200 ft and after half an hour of driving, appeared the endmost land of India, one can travel without a permit. Chiktul is the last village on the Baspa Valley before the Indo-Tibet border, which is only 90 Kms away. However, no civilian movement is allowed beyond Chitkul village. Chiktul is where all your wanderlust culminates and you attain a Zen-like state in awe of the natural surroundings. The robust mountains, vigorous snow-peaks will bring you down to your knees and you will feel like praying. You will most certainly realize how insignificant our individual existence is, in comparison to the vastness of the Himalayas. With Kinner Kailash in the backdrop, the tiny village of Chitkul at an elevation of 11,320ft boasts with nature’s unparallel beauty, on the banks of Baspa River. The glowing snow-clad mountains on one side of the river and a terrain with a handful of wooden houses and apple orchards on another side, Chitkul is a must visit for mountain lovers. During the dreadful months of winter, the place remains covered under a thick layer of snow. According to a contemporary study by Centre of Atmospheric Sciences at IIT Delhi, Chitkul has the purest air in India.
Chitkul leads to few popular trekking routes offering great vistas. For a single day trekking, you can reach Nagashi ITBP post which is just 4 km away. Going further ahead, you will reach Ranikanda Meadows, at a distance of 10 km. The same trail can take you to the Lamkhaga Pass. Due to time constraint we went on a short trek on a bewitching path and the memories will haunt me for the rest of my life. Leaving the memories and Chiktul behind, our car drove us back to Sangla. Back at the Hotel Kinner Kailash by nightfall, we fell asleep in tranquility.
Day 5: Sangla To Kalpa Via Reckong Peo (1 Hour and 30 Minutes)
Reckong Peo is the commercial and administrative center of the Kinnaur district. The busiest trades of the entire district, all important government establishments are located at Reckong Peo. The HRTC Bus Stand at Reckong Peo connects the hill station with major cities, like Shimla, Delhi. Nestled in the Himalayan mountains, at a height of 7500 ft, Reckong Peo is one fascinating destination in Himachal Pradesh, the refreshing aroma of pine trees, apple orchards, imposing deodars, add to the charm of Reckong Peo.
Right above Reckong Peo is the bustling Himalayan village named Kalpa, which is an important mountain transit in the Sutlej River Valley. Inhabited by delighful Kinnauri people and known for its apple orchards, Kalpa is a blessed locale. Kalpa fosters the finest quality Apples in our country like Red Delicious, Golden Delicious which are major cash-crops for the region. This scenic hamlet carries a mélange of rich Hindu culture with Tibetan influence, mesmerizing its tourists with its snow-capped Himalayan Mountains, thick oak and pine forests, majestic glacier streams, and the pristine Baspa River flowing through the valley.
Where To Stay In Kalpa
Our stay at the famous Kinner Kailash Hotel in Kalpa was memorable. The Kinner Kailash is a 3-star budget hotel surrounded by mountains. IJust 2 km from the picturesque Rolla Cliff, the hotel is owned and managed by Himachal Pradesh State Tourism. The wooden construct of the hotel is in sync with Kinnaur styled architecture. Apart from that, there are privately operated hotels and resorts in Kalpa offering satisfactory services and good views of the valley.
Sapni Fort : Kalpa Sightseeing
With awe-inspiring sights of Mount Kinnaur Kailash, Raldang, and Jorkanden Peaks, Kalpa boasts on extensive apple orchards, sumptuous Tibetan cuisine and a mesmerizing mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism. One of the best places to visit in Himachal Pradesh, the pristine Himalayan village is also renowned for its historical monuments, temples and monasteries.
The stunning Sapni Fort is renowned for its unique architecture and beguiling surroundings. Commissioned by Raja Padam Singh of Rampur, this ancient fort was constructed with two adjoining towers, the main one having seven floors. A temple is dedicated to the Goddess Kali at the fifth floor of the main tower, also some of the finest doors and window frames are carved in wood in the Sapni Fort. In close proximity to the scenic Sapni village, in the vicinity of Kalpa, the Sapni Fort is a colossal structure amidst the Himalayan mountains and is unmissable.
The View Of Kinner Kailash Mountain Peak From Kalpa
As per Indian Mythology, the Himalayan ranges of Kinner Kailasha is believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva. He proceeds to this place in winter climate to meditate in tranquility. Kinner Kailash mountain peaks can de discerned from almost everywhere in Kalpa village. We were fortunate to behold an indelible sunset on the Kinner Kailash, glowing in the divine light of setting sun. The white snow peak turning golden before our eyes; a sight etched in our mind for ages to come and we retreated to our resort before dark. Next day we would be heading towards Kaza, afar from Kinnaur district.
Day 6 : Kalpa To Kaza (6 Hours)
“A World Within A World”
Rudyard Kipling On Lahaul And Spiti Region
Kaza is the capital and regional headquarters of Spiti valley in the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. Situated in the Trans-Himalayan region of India at an elevation of 12,500 ft above average sea level, Kaza is the biggest and most developed town in Spiti valley. The town of Kaza is accessible from either Lahaul Valley or Kinnaur Valley, but the former route is only operational during the summer season. Winter can be challenging in this part of Himachal Pradesh with extremely low temperatures turning the town of Kaza immensely cold. The inhabitants of Kaza are confined indoors throughout winter chill and only venture out in case of emergency. The locals stock up food supplies for this time of the year and engage themselves in crafting handworks.
Stretched along the Spiti River, the topography and heritage of Kaza in the Spiti Valley is similar to Ladakh and Tibet. Overlooked by steep ridges, sky-high mountains with snowy crowns, translucent streams, barren splendor bestrewed with patches of green, the town of Kaza is known for its colorful festivals and monasteries.
Sakya Tangyud Monastery
In the village of Komic, two Kms southeast of Hikkim in the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh, the famous Tangyud Monastery or Sa-skya-gong-mig Gompa is situated. The Gompa has the appearance of a fortified castle with tilted mud walls. It is one of the highest altitude gompas in India, at an altitude of 14,830 ft, on the edge of a deep canyon and overlooking the town of Kaza, 4 KM to the west. The monastery is located on the periphery of the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary and is a sacred site to the devout Buddhists.
Located at a height of 13,668 feet above sea level in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, the Key Monastery is over 1000-year-old. Founded by Dromton, a famous disciple of teacher Atisha in the 11th century, it is the biggest center for learning Buddhism in Spiti Valley. The monastery used to house about 350 lamas at one time. The monastery is famous for its architecture called Pasada style. 14 Kms apart, Kaza is the nearest town from where the Key Monastery can be visited.
The View Of Kinner Kailash From Kaza
Due to higher altitude and arid landscape, oxygen is scarce in this district, although the town of Kaza makes an ideal base camp for all treks and tours within the valley. And the less travelled paths proffer stupendous views of Kinner Kailash mountains. This soporific place hums with activity of tourists, trekkers and pilgrims especially during summers.
Where To Stay In Kaza
Hotel the Spiti in Kaza, named after the Spiti river and complimenting the Spiti valley, has been inaugurated recently by HPTDC. The hotel serves as an apt accommodation to explore the authentic experience of Kaza and we had no complaints staying there for the night. There are few other privately operated resorts and homestays available in Kaza, where one can find humble but earnest hospitality.
Day 7 : Kaza To Kalpa (Return Journey)
On our way back to Kalpa from Kaza, we spent some time in the heavenly apple orchards. The orchard owners were gracious enough to offer us sample apples freshly plucked from the garden and Oh! boy, are they sweet and juicy! My absolute favorite was the variant “Golden Delicious” apples, golden yellow in color and mouth-watering. The autumn blue-sky, exuberant orchards with flourishing apples and ever courteous Kinnauri men and women extended warmth which readily melted our hearts. We spent an ample evening rejoicing at the Kinner Kailash hotel in Kalpa.
Day 8: Kalpa To Narkanda (4 Hours and 30 Minutes)
Popular for winter sports, Narkanda is among India’s oldest ski destinations with the undulating spell of nature. bustling at an altitude of 8100 ft, the slopes of the hill town is perfect for the skills of novice as well as proficient skiers.
Hatu Peak: Soaring at an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet above sea level, the Hatu Peak is the highest peak in the entire Shimla district, 8km afar Narkanda. Encircled by sublime mountains and enclosed in a dense green blanket of skyward cedar and fir, Hatu Peak may just be heaven on earth.
Narkanda Local Sightseeing
Tannu Jubbar Lake: This lake encompassed with trees all around is a perfect picnic spot and to avail oneself of quiet time cherishing the limpid reflection of tress in the lake. This lake is a minuscule and serene waterbody with no boating facility.
Where To Stay In Narkanda
We put up at The Hatu in Narkanda, a Himachal Pradesh State Tourism run hotel sheltered in the shadow of gigantic Himalayan mountains. Just off the Hindustan Tibet highway, The Hatu is a supreme stop-over for boarders at a quiet locale suitable for leisure and sightseeing. The Narkanda ski slopes are merely 1.5 Km from the hotel. With profuse views of the peaks, valleys and orchards, The Hatu caters to all countryside comforts and adventures. Narkanda presents other high-end resorts and private properties promising luxury at its best, along with mid-range budget accommodations.
Day 9: Narkanda To Shimla (2 Hours)
Exhausted but excited with our trip to Kinnaur Valley, North Himachal we found our way back to Shimla. It was time to bid adieu to Himachal Pradesh, the land of “snowy slopes”. For any trip, bringing back mementos is essential and we hopped on various shops over Shimla Mall to pick up local specialties such as woolen garments, artefacts. The evening in Shimla was made into the swan song of our glorious travel to North Himachal and we carried back enduring memories from Kinnaur Valley which will linger in our minds.
Day 10: Shimla To Chandigarh (Return Journey)
Our 10 days Kinnaur Valley Itinerary concluded at the Chandigarh Airport. Coming back to city life is the reality check that we all urban dwellers face, with remembrance of the places what dreams are made of.
To summarize the Trip To Kinnaur Valley – 10 Days Travel Itinerary To North Himachal:
- Either fly to Delhi or Chandigarh and start on a road trip to Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh. Else take a narrow gauge train from Kalka to Shimla.
- Reach Sangla via Sarahan by road.
- Plan a day-trip to Chitkul, the last village of India.
- Travel further to Kalpa and then Kaza. Explore the Himalayan trails to get amazing visuals of Kinner Kailash mountain peaks.
- Make a stopover at Narkanda, a Himalayan retreat for winter sports.
- Get inspired by the vastness and divinity of the Himalayas.
- Discover the culture, cuisine and hospitality of the Kinnauri natives.
- Shoot the mountains at different hours a day, especially at dawn and dusk, when the snowy mountains turn golden with the sunbeam.
- Wrap up your 10 days travel itinerary to North Himachal retreating to Shimla.
- Carry with you the striking memories you created during your trip to Kinnaur Valley.
Extend your views and share your ideas on trip to Kinnaur Valley. Leave a comment below on your take about 10 days travel itinerary to North Himachal !