We as humans always get attracted to something which is unachievable or looks very difficult. I always keep on wondering how people in Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Northern Himalayas sustain in extreme conditions especially in winters. This thought always fascinates me and pulls me towards it that I want to experience something like this once in a lifetime. And here I am writing my blog after finishing my winter Spiti in the harsh weather that one can dream of. Travel to Spiti is a different experience all together especially when you have been to Spiti in Summers.
This blog will cover a lot of aspects as to what all one should carry to be safe in such weather, different ways and routes that one can take.
If you are starting from Shimla
We took a flight from Mumbai to Delhi. You can also take a train as there are a lot of trains available for Delhi. Once we reach Delhi we took a train to Kalka, You can take a direct bus from Delhi to reach Shimla. If you want to give a different feel to your travel experience then don’t miss the Toy Train. Book tickets in advance for toy train from Kalka to Shimla as at the last moment you won’t get any tickets.
Suggestion – Please book your bus tickets in advance and only take the Govt. buses if you are planning to reach Shimla directly. Please avoid taking private buses to reach Shimla, first of all, private bus operators takes a lot of time and secondly, it’s risky as well.
Shimla to Kalpa (9712 ft)
We started from Shimla early morning around 8 AM since the distance between Shimla and Kalpa is 230 km and it takes approx 7 hrs to reach a destination. If you are taking a couple of stops that the same journey extends to 10-11 hrs considering climate is all favourable. I will suggest people start early if you can and keep some buffer time with you. In midway, we took a couple of stops one for breakfast where we had yummy aloo ka paratha with achar and curd. I don’t know how these locals made food but it really taste distinct, I would say something is there in the air and water which makes simple things wondrous.
My travel buddy and I then took the route via Kufri, Narkanda, Rampur and then finally to Kapla. Enroute you will find snow, on both sides of the roads, sometimes view is so mesmerizing that you want to forget everything and just feel the beauty of these hills. Kalpa is the capital of the Kinnaur region, I am not sure how many of you know this. We reached Kalpa around 8 PM in the night, it was all dark as in hills around 5-5:30 you will see that sunlight starts fading. By 8 you will feel it’s like 12 o clock in any city. From here the whole fight starts or I would say you start feeling the chill of the Spiti Valley. We were lucky to get beds that have heaters in it embedded. Nights are so cold that you can’t even think of taking your hand out of your gloves and don’t ask the layers of clothing that you need to wear. And not to forget in rooms you won’t get water in the toilet since all the pipelines get blocked or frozen due to ICE.
We took our dinner and headed to the room since it was a long journey and tiring as well, though the beauty through which we pass through was giving us a glimpse that what all we will be seeing ahead. The night view was also imposing as there was no pollution and an only beautiful sky filled with a bunch of stars, it looks as if someone has started a DJ light.
Kalpa to Tabo (10761 ft)
Post healthy and fresh breakfast and we both started a little late since the distance between Kalpa and Tabo is only 160 km which can be covered easily in 4hrs. We were planning to cover Giu monastery in between which we were unable to as due to some unforeseen circumstances we keep on getting late like there was a landslide in between, then due to on-going road work at a lot of places blasts were begun due to which we need to stop till the road gets cleared. Considering all these its a fun ride as you keep on seeing sometimes half-frozen, sometimes full frozen Spiti river. This view is only in winters and you keep on wondering how come suddenly river started flowing where half a km before it was all frozen. And these mountains keeps on changing colors after every 4-5 km which you can only experience. Tabo is famous for Tabo Monastery. We reach Tabo around 8 PM and had a good sleep. Since next morning our destination was Kaza.
Tabo to Kaza (12467 ft)
Distance between Tabo to Kaza is hardly 50 km which can be covered easily in 2 hrs. However, we decided to cover Pin valley which is almost frozen and would take your heart away when you pass from those routes where on both the sides you will find huge Ice blocks, sometimes their height is more than 10 ft and when you pass those you get an adrenaline rush. Pin valley is an abode to flora and fauna of Himalayas (National Park) but in winter you can only find one thing and that is snow. We reached Kaza and did a night halt there.
Kaza to Langza-Komic-Hikkim – Chichum Bridge – Kaza
These are some of the famous places nearby Kaza which cannot be missed if you are here. Langza is a village that is famous for Buddhist monasteries and fossils. We were unable to reach Komic due to heavy snow in the region and roads were blocked. Hikkim is famous for its worlds highest post office. You can postcards to your near and dear ones from here.
Chichum Bridge is Asia’s highest suspension bridge. When we reached there it started snowing and what more you can ask for at such a beautiful place. In midway, we have seen places where water is flowing from top but in middle, it has frozen, we were wondering how this can happen and we both was awe stuck witnessing that nature’s beauty which itself was surprising.
After covering all these places which in itself is an experience we came back to our homestay. A lot of memories were captured in photographs, some were captured in heart and some were there in our eyes which was just to stay for a very very long time. We have our dinner and stayed in our rooms, the temperature was -20 degrees celsius and we were feeling that we all died as it was so cold out but when we saw the mountains and the sky it felt as if how can the world be so beautiful and so calm. Trust me that was the feeling.
Kaza to Kalpa
This is one of the longest journey that we took in the whole trip and in midway since it was 200 km that need to be covered and in hills covering 200 km might take approx 9-10 hr which is just a journey time excluding the halts that you take and how much time you spend on each halt. With each passing hour, we were feeling that why we are going back as the Himalayas and the hills that we spend time were most beautiful. We thought that our journey has come to an end but God and nature have a different plan for us. After we reach Kalpa and checked in to our rooms, around 11ish in the night it started snowing, I have never seen real live snow falling on me. Trust me guys feeling was out of the world. It was like cotton coming on you and that’s it and it goes away. Wow-what a thing to watch out for. Till morning it was continuous snow and we came to know that this fresh snow is in whole region and routes have started closing down due to this.
Kalpa to Shimla
We started for Shimla and expecting to cover the distance in 9 hrs approx but due to snow routes were closed and we were forced to take a longer route and it took us 2 hrs more to reach to Shimla. We all were tired, happy, sad and what not as whatever we have experienced was in itself a journey that neither of us thought about.
The trip came to an end but the memories and the experience that we all got in itself was mind-boggling.
Things to Carry
- Jacket for -15 degree celsius
- Sports/Trekking Socks
- Woolen Socks
- Neck Warmer
- Woolen Cap
- Thermal Inner Wear
- Sun – Screen – SPF 50
- Water bottle
- Litter bags
Place to Stay
Depending on your budget you get ample places to stay, however, we suggest to do bookings beforehand as in winters it becomes tricky to roam around and look for good options. You will get a lot of budget hotels and home-stays, luxurious hotels are doubtful in Spiti Valley as it is still a secluded land and for past few years have gradually started becoming a travel spot.
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