personal growth and travel blog on my canvas homepage banner image

Spiti Valley – Not Your Usual Travel Destination (Updated 2022)

Share this:

Covid Related March 2022 Update for Spiti Valley: After staying closed for more than eleven months, Spiti Valley was finally opened to tourists in 2021. Rohtang Pass, a major pass en route to Spiti is closed until the end of April 2022. Generally that pass doesn’t open until May end. So I suggest planning your trip to Spiti Valley in June 2022. Or take the Shimla to Spiti route which is open throughout the year. Please make sure you follow the appropriate covid guidelines and respect not only the local’s safety but yours, too.


Spiti Valley is every traveler’s dream.

Why? Because Spiti is stunning.

Have you traveled to the Himalayas yet? Maybe you went on to a travel trip to Dharamshala, explored the many places to visit near Manali, or hiked to the Chandrashila peak in Himachal Pradesh. Or perhaps you visited Uttarakhand: Mussoorie, Landour, Dehradun, or trekked in the valley of flowers.

Vast green pastures, sheep and cow grazing on lush grass, high vegetation-rich mountains, dense jungles, orchards, farms and villages, English houses, churches — this is the typical scene in Himachal and Uttarakhand.

Though Spiti is one of the many Himachal Pradesh valleys, it is nothing like this.

In this Spiti valley trip guide, we will see Spiti is one of the most bizarre and gorgeous places on this planet. The altitude of Spiti is at least 4,000 meters even in the lowest parts of the valley. And don’t forget that Spiti is a Himalayan valley. The high altitude and the Himalayas make Spiti a unique place to live. 

 

Spiti valley himachal pradesh himalayas india
chicham+spitian+women+Spiti+valley+india+himalayas
Women of Spiti getting together for a religious celebration

What does this Spiti Valley travel guide contain?

  1. Solo in Spiti- My journey from Manali to Spiti, finding home stays in different Spitian villages, commuting in the valley, making my way on foot, hitchhiking, and more.
  2. Where is Spiti Valley?
  3. How to reach Spiti Valley?
    1. How to go to Spiti Valley by air?
    2. How to go to Spiti Valley by land?
    3. How to reach Spiti Valley from Manali?
    4. How to reach Spiti Valley from Shimla?
    5. How to reach Spiti valley from Delhi?
    6. How to reach Spiti valley from Bangalore?
  4. Who needs a permit for Spiti Valley?
  5. What could be your Spiti Valley itinerary?
  6. Where to stay in Spiti Valley, India?
  7. What to eat in Spiti?
  8. How is the Spiti Valley weather?
  9. What is the best time to visit Spiti Himachal Pradesh?
  10. What to pack for your trip to Spiti Valley?
  11. Is Spiti safe for a solo female traveler?

Getting from Manali to Spiti Valley, India

My journey from Manali to Spiti, finding home stays in different villages, experiencing local life, making my way on foot in the valley, hitchhiking, and more.

I went to Spiti in July, just when the road from Manali to Spiti had opened. As always, neither had I researched on how to travel to Spiti nor had I read any Spiti Valley blog when I arrived in Manali from Parvati valley. (PS: Kalga is a beautiful village, not to be missed in Parvati.)

As I got down at the bus station in new Manali, I enquired about a bus to Spiti at the Himachal government bus stand (HRTC). Though fellow travelers in Parvati had told me the road to Spiti valley was opened, the guy at the counter said buses to Spiti weren’t running yet and the route was closed.

I was disappointed when I should have been happy. For when a bus tried to make its way to Spiti in July, it had to return midway due to the bad roads from Manali to Spiti.

The road from Manali to Spiti valley is nasty, tour agents and bus drivers told me later.

Disappointed, I went to old Manali and decided to check with the local travel agents there. Walking in the wet narrow lanes of old Manali, I knocked the doors of many travel companies. They all told me I couldn’t, yet, visit Spiti. One of the agents even suggested that as the road to Spiti wasn’t open, I should take the Himachal Pradesh tourism bus to Leh. The journey takes two days.

I almost bought the bus ticket to Leh except the bus was full. Leh didn’t want me that time.

Tour agencies and transporters flaunting “travel to Spiti valley and Leh” posters on their glass windows fringed the lanes of old and new Manali. A couple of days later, some travel agents told me I could travel to Spiti in a shared jeep. Imagine seven (or more) people elbowing each other in a claustrophobic jeep for at least 12-13 hours — if everything went well.

No way.

Another tour company agent said I could get a seat in a big tempo traveler if I went to the new Manali bus station, waited there until a tempo from Spiti showed up, and requested the driver to take me to Spiti. He told me the vehicles going to Spiti are from Spiti — people from Manali don’t send their vehicles up as the trip is costly.

I didn’t want to wait at the bus station so I went to another travel shop. The middle-aged man at the counter called someone. After a quick conversation, he told me a tempo traveler was going to Spiti the next day and that he had bought me the best seat for fourteen hundred rupees.

“They are charging too much this time,” the kind travel agent said.

After a quick Paytm transaction, I walked out with a ticket to Spiti for the next day. I had to be on the old Manali bridge by 5 am the next morning.

Tired. Hungry. Thirsty. Excited. Anxious. I was a ball of emotions. But I prepared for my journey, ate an early dinner, said goodbyes to my friend who had done the road with me from Parvati, and went to bed.

The alarm rang at 4 am. On most days, an early alarm makes me miserable irrespective of what lies ahead in the day. And I didn’t just have to wake up but I also had to buckle up my rucksack and backpack and walk to the bridge in the dark, alone.

But the bright moon shining above in the sky made my pre-dawn walk a poetic one, rather than a scared stumble.

At the pickup point I received a call from the driver Shibhu who said a van would come to pick me up. I waited, got into an unknown car when the driver confirmed he worked with Shibhu, and hoped for the best.

Shibhu, a young Spitian, was busy tying luggage and rucksacks to the roof of the tempo traveler.

“You must keep this as it might fly off,” Shibhu said while handing my yoga mat which I had tightly strapped to my rucksack.

I didn’t get much time to wonder how a tightly-tied yoga mat could fly away for Shibhu had started the vehicle. I jumped into my single seat in the front of the tempo traveler, and thus began my Spiti valley road trip.

Shibhu soon asked me to change cars for a few minutes.

“All the cars leaving Manali for Spiti have to show a permit (which can be obtained online now) if they have passengers who are not local — everyone from outside Spiti,” Shibhu informed, “but I don’t have the permit.” I translated Shibhu’s words to the foreign passengers in our vehicle.

All Indians and foreigners changed cars to sit in Shibhu’s friend’s car (his friend had the permit). All the local Spitian passengers from the other car sat in our places.

After crossing the checkpoint everyone got back to where they belonged, and we drove on. The road leading up to Rohtang Pass takes you through green and vibrant views and is mostly safe except for a few potholes. I say mostly because Shibhu had to tilt the tempo and drive with one wheel on the road and another on a higher pavement a couple of times.

road+to+Spiti
Just another view of the Himalayas on the drive

We stopped for breakfast a few hours into the drive. While most people just stood by admiring the panoramic no man’s land, I stuffed myself with a grilled cheese sandwich and ginger tea. Two foreign women chatted that they get nausea on a curvy drive and so abstain from food.

When the tempo traveler swiveled up the steep mountains, I thanked the universe for being born in India. After all, I have been riding on rickety buses racing through tipsy-topsy roads since I was perhaps two years old. I’ve never seen the slightest worry on the driver’s face.

If you are driving by one of these tempo travelers to Spiti, please pee whenever you get a chance. For the Spitian drivers never stop for a bathroom break. Of course, if they halt because the road is washed away or a waterfall is thrashing down on the road, men quickly find corners or just turn around and release themselves.

But what about women and girls? You will know soon.

After driving through the velvety and white Rohtang peaks, we got into drier, rockier mountains. Vegetation disappeared. The road became rougher. The landscape turned more gravel. Now we were going through parts of the route where the snow had been cleared to make way for vehicles. The paved away snow stood on either side, sometimes as tall as the height of the car.

roads+in+spiti+valley+himachal+india

Water gushed freely on the roads we were climbing. Tiny rivulets ran down snowy hills. Giant waterfalls smashed down on the road and washed away most of the narrow pathway. Sometimes the road was just a collection of uneven boulders settled precariously over freezing water that rushed to meet the river.

Some waterfalls pushed the rocks that lined the road into the deep valley. At these times, Shibhu would ask us to get out of the car and drive slowly to avoid skidding on the narrow road. One wrong move and the tempo would have fallen into nothingness.

Shepherds and their flocks of sheep also walked on roads. So if we took a turn suddenly, the road disappeared leaving us staring at a few hundred sheep (at least) who stared back at us.

Icy peaks watched us from a distance. A thin river gushed at the foot of the tall hills. Glaciers shined atop hills. Water poured over from all directions. We drove on.

Spiti+valley+road+himachal+india
one of the many times we drove past a huge flock of sheep walking through the ice walls

We took a short lunch break at Lossar, one of the first villages of Spiti.

In the village of Lossar, the Indian flag danced in the sky. The village was a backdrop to green fields. I came to know later that most farms were pea farms as mostly nothing else grows in Spiti (barley does). A small collection of flat-roofed white houses stood silent. Everything seemed white except the red and maroon borders that ran around the homes like ribbons. Of course, the rugged mountains towered above guarding the village.

lossar+village+Spiti+valley
Lossar village, one of the first on the way to Spiti

Arriving in Kaza Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh

“Let’s go. Kaza is further away.” Shibhu hurried to the car. We arrived in Kaza at 6:30 pm after driving for about thirteen hours.

The landscape was so unfamiliar to me I felt out of place. First, I thought I was feeling the same anxiety I get when I arrive in any place for the first time, alone. But in Spiti Valley, my apprehensions weren’t baseless — though serene, Spiti is a surreal place (at least to me).

Suggested Read: Experiences from my first solo trip to Thailand

The passengers dispersed quickly. The local travelers must have gone to their homes. The foreigners had either pre-booked guesthouses or knew their way around. But neither I knew anyone nor I had a guesthouse to go to.

I walked around the streets of Kaza and found a simple homestay near the bus stand. Kaza has many homestays, now, but earlier only a couple of homes welcomed visitors in Kaza. My homestay was managed by an old grandmother who seemed to live in the house alone. Later she told me her son and daughter-in-law visit her often.

After throwing my bags in the corner of my simple but pristine room, I went out. Small grocery and medical stores were bustling with people. Tiny roadside restaurants sold jalebis, ginger chai, and samosas. Then there were cafes and souvenir shops.

My phone hadn’t received any signal for more than a few hours by then. So I went into the BSNL shop around the corner and bought a sim card to call my family and partner.

Kaza village is divided into two parts — old and new. Houses are similar to the ones I had seen in Lossar — flat-roofed, white with red, maroon, and orange borders. Solar panels were installed on all rooftops. All the windows were square. Colorful peace and prayer flags danced with the wind around each house.

Grand canyon-like chocolate mountains with strange shapes and structures surrounded Kaza. These mountains appeared steeper than the ones in Parvati and Dharamshala. They were more barren, too.

Construction work was going on in the valley. Locals said a highway will come there.

kaza Spiti valley India
Kaza, as seen from the top of the Kaza village temple.

Solo in Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh

Tiny Tibetan, Nepalese, and Spitian restaurants along with cosmopolitan organics cafes fringe the streets of Kaza. I quickly became the patron of one Nepalese restaurant that served delicious mushroom momos and thukpa (details later in the eat in Spiti section.)

But Kaza doesn’t have much to see. Especially as I got up early and visited the Kaza monastery and temple in the first half of the day. Just aimlessly wandering around Kaza wasn’t that nice because the sun was harsh during the day on the open Kaza land. At most places, homes or shops were being constructed. Tourists flocked most Kaza streets. Everywhere I turned I found a homestay or a guesthouse. 

I wanted to get out and visit or walk to another serene village or landmark. I had heard about Key monastery before I even planned my Spiti valley solo trip. As Key monastery is one of the most historical places to visit in Spiti valley, I decided to go there hoping to understand the valley better. 

Walking out of new Kaza, I crossed the BSNL center and the world’s highest petrol pump on my left. Now I was on the road to the Kibber and Chicham villages.

Each village of Spiti is connected to Kaza with only one HRTC bus every day. The inter-village buses leave from Kaza in the late afternoon and return to Kaza early next morning. The bus and its driver and conductor all sleep in the village for the night. Given the constraint bus timings, hitchhiking or hiring/driving a car or bike is the best way to travel in Spiti.

But neither I knew how to drive a car nor a bike. At first, the idea of hitchhiking alone in the extraordinary valley frightened me. I wondered how would I walk on the snaky roads rising higher and higher through the rocky mountains. Miles and miles go by before you see any human or animal soul. What if passing cars and bikes didn’t see me at a blind curve?

Someone suggested waiting for a lift at the petrol pump. I took the advice. But no one on the way to the Key monastery had space in their car. 

While I waited, men working at the petrol pump, travelers in cars and bikes, and truck and transport drivers stared at me. Maybe they wondered why was I traveling solo in a valley as remote as Spiti. Or perhaps they worried about me? 

After an hour, I gave up waiting. Though a Spitian man told me he would drop me at Key the next day, I decided I would take a bus to the Kibber village the next evening. Buses for that day had already left.

A Tip: Go to the taxi driver’s union near the bus stand in Kaza to get an idea of things to do in Spiti valley and for a view of the Spiti map. 

Stories of Spiti, Himachal Pradesh

When I returned to my homestay, my host — whom everyone called Ammaji— offered me tea and parathas. When I asked Ammaji about her family, she said her parents died when she was young. Her husband passed away at the young age of thirty-five. 

Ammaji told me her husband was in the Army and was posted in Kerala. When he went for a medical checkup for his protruded nose, the doctors told him he had cancer. 

“He wrote to me in January, 91.” She remembered. “But I got the letter in April, 91.” 

Ammaji walked a long distance to see her husband and took him to a guru (a lama) in Dehradun. He got better and returned to Kerala to quit the army. But while he was in Kerala his cancer returned. He died in Kaza a few months later. 

“Here in the mountains we never have cancer. It is a disease of the plains. But we don’t know what happened.” She said.

Ammaji, who worked in the Kaza hospital and knew about medicine, had two small children at that time. Now both her son and daughter are grown up.

I took Ammaji’s hand in mine and told her hand was swollen.

“Gathiya, that’s what it is called.” She smiled.

She pressed my hands and said, “Your hands are like wool.”

Related Read: Ammaji Reminded me of my strong host mother in Chile.

chicham+village+Spiti valley in himachal pradesh
People of Spiti are tougher than people from most parts of the world I’ve so far visited. I couldn’t take a picture of Ammaji. This is a picture of another Spitian lady from the village of Chicham. We climbed for an hour above Chicham to arrive at these pea farms.

The Gorgeous Spiti, India

Next day I went down to the river and was stunned by the gorgeous vista that lay in front of me.

The sky was blue ink spread over a canvas. Silver and grey clouds floated above like thick bundles of cotton. Purple cactus flowers stood in between the rugged mountains and me. A snow-capped mountain on my far left rested at a ninety-degree slope. . The green grass near the river smiled with golden flowers. The sun played hide and seek. Along with the sun, the shadows of the clouds danced on the mountains.

And I just stood there watching the magic of nature.

kaza+Spiti  himachal pradesh
What can be more beautiful?

More About Spiti Valley

In the evening, I made my way to the bus stand to travel to Kibber. When the conductor asked me if I would also go up to Chicham to see the highest bridge in Asia, I told him to give me a ticket to Chicham.

On the bus, I got to see much more of the Spiti Valley.

Spitian mountains are rocky and sharp-edged. Most of the landscape is dry and barren. The two hundred thirty-one villages of Spiti are scattered throughout the valley, but some villages are more isolated than the rest. While walking or driving around the valley, most villages cannot be seen as those are located on top of hills or are hinging on to the high slopes of dry peaks.

The population of Spiti is just about 12,500 which is why I didn’t see another human for miles sometimes. To any regular person from the plains, the landscape would seem intimidating. And why wouldn’t it? After all, even the lowest parts of Spiti are as high as 4000 meters.

Spiti is mostly dry. Rain is not kind to the valley, the bus conductor told me. A cold desert, one might aptly say.

You won’t find many cows grazing in Spiti, especially in the winters. Shepherds walk along with hundreds of sheep and goats on these same roads that vehicles use. A local driver later told me shepherds from the surrounding villages bring their village sheep to graze in those high mountains because the vegetation of Spiti is medicinal.

He must be right. All the sheep were plump and healthy. 

The Spiti river and many shallower streams cut through the valley. Locals call these streams nallahs.

Village Life of Spiti Valley, Himalayas

Though Chicham bridge is one of the top places to see in Spiti valley, I found the village of Chicham much more interesting than the bridge. I stayed there for two nights in different home stays. As I hadn’t read any Spiti travel guide, I didn’t know what to expect. The faintly working BSNL completely failed in Chicham. 

Evenings in the homestay were full of conversations, tea, and biscuits. A drowsy television ran in the background. The kitchen was full of engraved, ceramic crockery — like people of plains display chandeliers or showpieces, Spitians display carved crockery

People of Spiti speak Spitian amongst themselves. I sat down with the family and tried conversing. But whenever I asked something or made a remark, a family member would reply to me and they would get back to conversing in Spitian.

photos+of+spiti+valley+cheecham+village+house

Despite the language barrier, I kept asking questions about daily life in India’s remotest valley. 

Villagers said they had been living in the same villages for generations. Families work in the pea and barley farms that were assigned to them centuries ago by the village elders and panchayats. Greenhouses provide daily vegetables. Cattle, sheep, and donkeys stay in a small shed behind the house. 

Families wake up early. They milk the cows and go to their fields. They return to eat but not to rest. Mostly everyone has to hike someplace to fix a broken water pipe, cut grass, herd cattle, or collect forest plants and firewood.

Lamas or their “devtas” (gods) visit the villages often. When a “devta” has to pay a visit, someone from the village announces his visit to the villagers from the top of the temple. The women — from all the 30-50 houses — run with bottles of local rice liquor, ghee, and milk to offer to the devta and get his blessings. 

In the evening when everyone finishes work, families huddle around the fire in the kitchen. Then they eat momos or rice and curry and go to bed early.

While people from plains struggle to form schedules, Spitians are masters of their daily routines.

chicham+photos+of+Spiti india
What a beautiful place to live! But everything in life comes at a cost.

Children as young as seven-years-old study far from their mothers, mostly in the city of Dharamshala, Shimla, or Manali. Most children return to Spiti to live in their villages with their families. Women of all ages climb those treacherous mountains daily to work in their fields high up. Village men guide curious tourists up the jagged Spiti peaks to show them snippets of Ibex and the much sought-after snow leopard.

A houseboy from Uttar Pradesh can also be found in each house. Those boys live and work with the family, far away from their own homes, to make money and send some home. Most of the boys’ faces were black with soot and dust and didn’t seem to have been washed for long. After all, in Spiti Valley water isn’t available in plenty.

The UP boys not only help the family in everyday chores but also help them prepare for the winters. In heavy winters, temperatures get as low as negative forty degrees and heavy snowfall bombards the valley for about eight months. Those are the times when snow leopards descend to villages and can be seen from close by.

During these months Spiti is further disconnected from the rest of India for lesser people find the courage to head to Spiti.

key+monastery+kaza+Spiti+valley+pics
Group of Spitian women climbing up the Key Monastery to give ghee, milk, and other items to the lamas on Dalai Lama’s birthday.
people+spiti+chicham+trip+to+spiti+valley
Villagers playing classical instruments in the honor of a devta (god) who visited the village of Chicham.

Feeling Lonely in Spiti

I spent the evenings listening to family conversations I didn’t understand. In the morning, I hitchhiked and visited other villages. Or I went to the family’s farm with the women.

One night after eating a late meal of cottage cheese and ladies finger with rice in a homestay in Demul, I couldn’t sleep the whole night. Throughout my Spiti stay, I had a bad stomach from drinking the hard water of the valley (only towards the end I bought Bisleri). That night, I had to go to the toilet a few times.

In winter, water freezes in the pipes in Spitian homes. The pipes would then expand and break. So Spitians empty their water pipes and lock their regular toilets much before winter. Water is sparingly used in the winter because of its limited availability.

Many people of Spiti use pit toilets even in summers. Pit toilets are a hole in the ground in which you release yourself. When finished, ash from the wood fire and dry animal dung is thrown over the waste.

In the pit toilet in Demul, a damp smell overpowered me. I went back to the bed claustrophobic.

My BSNL connection didn’t work in the interior villages. Disconnected from family and friends back home, I felt isolated. Even though the local families were nice and the landscape couldn’t be more beautiful, I missed that usual warmth amongst people. 

As much as I understood, Spitians are always busy with work and chores. I found most houses always locked. Hardened by the tough Spiti life, locals work like there is no tomorrow. Who has time to stop to hug a family member or laugh?

Even when the locals could speak to me in Hindi, most of the time they talked amongst themselves in Spitian. They would reply to me and go back to chatting in Spitian. With the booming tourism in the valley, most villagers seem to have outgrown the initial interest they must have had in tourists from around the world. Not many locals showed an interest in me beyond the small talk.

I missed a hug in the cold desert.

I knew I needed more time to understand the life in Spiti. But I decided to leave Spiti and go to Manali the next day. 

As a travel blogger and writer, I travel more for the experience and conversations with locals rather than to chill and drink with friends. But on that solo trip in the Spiti valley, I wondered if I could handle the cold desert alone.

I’m still not sure. But I know I have seen one of the most breathtaking landscapes on this world. 

Also read: My learnings from traveling the world, solo, for years. 

 

spitian+girl+chicham+villages+of+Spiti+valley+himachal+india
This little girl was the only one who would come and hug me out of nowhere. She jumped on me and pressed her cheek against mine. I wish more people in Spiti (and in the world) had her playfulness and free-spiritedness.

 

Where is Spiti Valley?

Spiti is in Himachal Pradesh. Spiti valley lies to the right side of Parvati valley, and one can trek from Parvati to Spiti via the Pin-Parvati pass. The trek is a tough one and needs a guide.

Spiti is very close to the Tibet border. We might not even have the road in Spiti if the valley was not so close to the Indian-China border. 

Spiti means the land between Tibet and India.

How to reach Spiti Valley?

How to go to Spiti Valley by air?

The nearest domestic airport to Spiti valley is Bhuntar. Chandigarh is the closest international airport to Spiti. Bhuntar is about 250 km away from Kaza, and Chandigarh is at a distance of 500 km.

If you fly to Chandigarh or Bhuntar, you will have to come to Manali or Shimla to take a taxi to Kaza. Finding a private taxi in Chandigarh and Bhuntar that goes until Kaza could be hard, if not impossible. Because the drivers who drive to Spiti are from Spiti itself, and they start their trips from Manali or Shimla.

To see how to reach Spiti from Manali and Shimla, see the upcoming sections.

How to go to Spiti Valley by land? How to arrange for a Spiti road trip?

Drive from Shimla or Manali up to Kaza, the capital of Spiti.

The route from Shimla to Spiti valley is open all the year and is said to be better. But I did meet someone who drove from Shimla side and was stuck on the road for more than a day because the road got washed away.

People choose the shorter road from Manali to Spiti. But that route is only open for a few months of July and August and then it shuts down due to snowfall. As I said earlier, Manali-Spiti is a nasty road.

How to reach Spiti Valley from Manali?

  • by bus
  • in a shared jeep or a tempo traveler
  • by private car
  • on a bike

HRTC government bus — make sure the bus is functional during your travel dates. Also, the big bus has the highest chances of not making it to the Spiti valley and returning halfway. For the roads are such that sometimes the bus can’t go but the smaller vehicles can.

The shared tempo travelers — Walk around new and old Manali. Ask for prices and availability. Seat number 9 is the best. Book a day ahead for the seats get full. The drivers stop for lunch and breakfast. Carry water but drink less for the driver doesn’t stop for a bathroom break. Roads are bad but do not worry as expert drivers drive on these roads. Price for one seat should be between Rs 1000-1400.

Shared jeep — The same instructions as above. Prices might vary.

Private taxi — Book from a known travel agent. Ask him about the driver and his expertise in driving these roads. Make sure the car is good. Bargain for prices. Carry enough water. Leave early for the journey from Manali to Spiti takes at least 12-13 hours on a good day. Even though the distance is only 200 km, the trip is long for the roads are bad and curvy. The travel agent would arrange for the permit.

Self-Drive — Make sure to take a strong car. An Alto might not work but a Swift would. Many people who were driving by themselves asked our driver if they would arrive in Spiti with their car. Our driver always replied that the roads are bad but people make it. So only those drivers who are confident about their driving skills and their cars should self drive to Spiti. Carry extra fuel and water. You will need a permit.

Taking a bike — Bikes can be rented in Manali. Test it well. Carry extra fuel. Be confident about driving on those roads. You will need a permit. A bike trip to Spiti valley is the most fun way to experience the valley but requires extreme caution.

On foot or cycle — Keep going. You would reach your destination. Stay safe.

I personally refer to Devil on Wheels this guide to know if the road to Kaza has opened.

How to reach Spiti Valley from Shimla?

I think most of the instructions would stay the same. The journey time would be much higher, but the road would be better.

Something to remember: Spiti only has one petrol pump, which is in Kaza. 

How to reach Spiti Valley from Delhi?

The Manali route — Fly or take a bus from Delhi to Bhuntar, Amritsar, Dharamshala, or Chandigarh. Next, get to Manali.

The Shimla route — Drive, fly, or take a bus to Shimla. Flights are infrequent and expensive though.

To continue the journey from Manali and Shimla, please look at the above sections.

How to reach Spiti Valley from Bangalore?

The Manali route — Fly from Bangalore to Bhuntar, Amritsar, Dharamshala, Pathankot, or Chandigarh. I often take the Bangalore to Amritsar or Pathankot route and the flights are cheap. From there, get to Manali by road.

The Shimla route — Fly from Bangalore to Delhi or Bhuntar, Amritsar, Dharamshala, Pathankot, or Chandigarh. From there, read Shimla by road or fly from Delhi to Shimla.

To continue the journey from Manali and Shimla, please look at the above sections.

Spiti+valley+india

 

Who needs a permit for Spiti Valley?

Traveling to Spiti from Shimla
Indian citizens don’t need a permit to travel to Spiti from Shimla. But foreigners need an inner-line permit to get into the Kinnaur valley. As I don’t know a lot about permits, I refer to this guide of the mountain lover Vargis Khan to research about permits. Here is the official website of Lahaul and Spiti district tourism that has important information on permits and other travel details.

Traveling to Spiti from Manali

Both Indian and foreign citizens need a “Rohtang pass and beyond” permit for their vehicles. But if a taxi is hired, the travel agency could get those permits. On the bus, the bus driver makes sure he has the permit to drive through Rohtang Pass.

From where to get the Rohtang Pass permit or the permit to travel beyond Rohtang towards Spiti valley? 
Permit can be applied from the Rohtang permits official website.

For the return journey from Kaza to Manali, a permit isn’t needed.

What could be your Spiti Valley itinerary?

Spiti+valley+map+himachal+india
  1. Get down in Kaza — Walk around. Go to the river. See the temple and Kaza monastery. Eat at local places. Get a feel of the valley.
  2. Go to Key monastery — The monastery has a dormitory. During my visit, the dormitory was closed for renovation. It was being prepared for Dalai Lama’s visit the next year,.
  3. From Key, visit Kibber — I didn’t find the village impressive enough to suggest staying there. But every village is unique and you can find something there I didn’t.
  4. From Kibber, get a bus, hike, or hitchhike to Chicham — Chicham is a beautiful village. While going there, you would cross the highest bridge in Asia known as the Chicham bridge. Nights in Chicham are starry. Request the homestay people to take you to their pea and barley fields. If their farms are further up in the mountains, you will get the best views of the Spiti valley from the heights. Villagers arrange for snow leopard spotting trips. Ask at the homestay.
  5. Hike to Hikkim, Lhangcha, and Komic — These are three beautiful villages located close by. You can take a bus to either of these. Get down at Hikkim. Stay there for a night or go to Komic the same day. Hikkim also has the world’s highest post office.
  6. Return to Kaza or directly make your way to Dhankar or Demul. Dhankar has an ancient monastery. Demul is gorgeous and is located much higher up than Kaza. You can even see Himalayan deer on the way to Demul for the mountains there are grassier.

These are just my ideas on things to do in Spiti Valley. One can make Spiti its own by creating a path/route suited for herself.

Many Indian travelers travel in Spiti by car. Just wave your hand for a lift. Though hitchhiking is easier for solo travelers as most vehicles can fit one person, I didn’t get a lift many times. Then I kept walking or waited for a bus.

Related read: My guide to known and unknown Dharamshala hikes

 

Where to stay in Spiti Valley, India?

Accommodation in Spiti valley is abundant. I prefer to stay in a homestay. You can easily find a homestay in Spiti valley by walking around in the village. You don’t need to book beforehand.

The village community decides which family would host guests on a particular day, and families take turns in hosting guests. When guests arrive, villagers take them to the homestay for the day. Some villages also have guest homes that function all around the year.

My homestay in Kaza was right next to the bus stand in a tiny lane opposite the taxi driver’s union. I can’t recall the name of the homestay but just ask anyone about Ammaji’s homestay or go in the lane opposite to the union and there it is. Simple room with a double bed and mirror. Toilets are outside.

What you need to know before staying in a homestay in Spiti Valley,

  • Spiti homes are made out of mud which makes them smell a bit different. But the mud walls insulate the insides from both the cold and hot weather outside. Also, the houses are meant to sustain severe colds so they are built low and small. Rooms wouldn’t be large halls but smaller compact spaces that can be warmed easily. Though I felt a bit claustrophobic in the homestays at the beginning, I quickly adapted to clustering around the fire with the host family.
  • As I said, Spitians use pit toilets. In winters they have to empty their water pipes and lock the regular toilets (if they have any.) Otherwise, the water pipes will expand and break.
  • Bring toilet paper and other toiletries. Most Spitian homes don’t have a bathroom. Shower can be taken in the greenhouse infrequently.
  • Usually, breakfast and dinner are included in the room price. Simple meals of cottage cheese, okra, cauliflower, potatoes, dal, and thick rotis or rice are served.

I paid 500 rupees for a night along with dinner and breakfast in remote villages such as Chicham and Demul. In Kaza, I paid 500 rupees for only the stay without food. But the lady was kind and offered me food anyways. To reciprocate her kindness, I would get her jalebi.

Hotels cannot be found in all villages. Only Kaza has many hotels. Browse for hotels in Kaza on Booking here.

To truly experience Spiti’s daily life, you must stay with a family.

There are many places to stay in Spiti valley. Choose as per your budget, preferences, and the experience you are looking for.

people of spiti in a spiti valley travel blog

What to eat in Spiti?

Food in Spiti valley is a mix of Nepalese, Tibetan, and Himachal cuisine. You can find delicious Thukpa, momos, and chowmein just about anywhere. But you can also have dal-rice, parathas, and curries as easily. Cafes and restaurants are present in Kaza but not in many other villages, especially the more remote ones.

Home stays also give breakfast and dinner. Upon asking, they can provide lunch, too. The homely meals would be simple dal with roti and curry or momos and thukpa.

Do try eating at the Nepalese restaurant near German Bakery in Kaza. The old couple serves amazing mushroom momos and thukpa.

 

How is the Spiti Valley Weather?

I went to Spiti valley in July. Most of the days were bright and sunny. Nights got colder but two blankets were more than enough. I still needed a jacket during the day because the valley was windy. It rained slightly when I was there. 

As Spiti is a cold desert situated at a high altitude, I felt thirsty often. Drink plenty of water. Water also helps with altitude sickness.

June, July, and August are the warmest months. The rest of the time, the valley is cold. Spiti suffers severe winter during November – February. If you plan to visit Spiti then, make sure you carry enough warm clothes and sturdy jackets to protect yourself.

 

What is the best time to visit Spiti Himachal Pradesh?

The best time to visit Spiti valley is from June to August. These are the warmest months of Spiti. 

Spiti in winters would be a different experience altogether. The snow leopard can be seen near the lower villages in winter. In extremely cold temperatures, the snow leopard comes down to hunt the animals who also descend to escape the harsh weather and lack of food in the higher peaks.

I would suggest first going to Spiti in the summers. Walk around, see, and experience the valley. Once you’ve acquainted yourself with the landscape, your winter trip in winter would be more manageable and stress-free. 

What to pack for your trip to Spiti Valley?

Here are some essentials to be packed for a Spiti Valley trip.

(while trying to survive the icy winds of Spiti, always get the sturdiest clothes and shoes.)

This is a list of basic travel items to be taken to Spiti. But don’t forget to bring along other regular clothes such as t-shirts and undergarments.

Is Spiti safe for a solo female traveler?

I never felt threatened or unsafe in Spiti despite the glares I got from people when they heard I was traveling in Spiti alone. Everybody helped with directions. I always made sure not to go hiking or very far away from the homestay in the dark.

Kaza definitely had some drunkards who wanted to chat a lot. Some people from Punjab and other parts of Himachal who are working in Kaza also tried to be over friendly. No other comments.

That’s all folks. Now you tell me.

Have you been to Spiti Valley? Would you like to go there?

Liked my article! Please pin it!

spiti valley travel blog pinterest image
spiti valley travel blog pinterest
pinterest image for spiti valley travel tips

 

*****

Donate to keep me going!
For five years, I've read and wrote day and night to keep On My Canvas - my sustenance and life's focal point - going. Everything here and my weekly newsletter "Looking Inwards" is free. No ads. No sponsorships. If you’ve had some good moments reading my posts or felt hopeful on a lonely day, please consider making a one-time or a consistent donation. I'll really appreciate it (You can cancel anytime).

*****

Want similar inspiration and ideas in your inbox? Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter "Looking Inwards"!

Share this:

27 thoughts on “Spiti Valley – Not Your Usual Travel Destination (Updated 2022)”

  1. A wonderful piece on Spiti. I was planning to go to Spiti in 2020 and Covid altered everything. I was satiating my desire by searching Spiti pictures and came across your article. Thank you so much Priyanka!

    Reply
  2. You made me fall in love with Udaipur… such great places … explained well with images. Will surely recommend this post to my friends and family members

    Reply
  3. Liked your blog . In this terrain solo traveling is very difficult. But you have visited this place with courage and your information about spiti will inspire to other travelers also to visit this place. I have also visited this place is May, 2017 from shimla – kalpa side. Once again thanks for your nice photography and information.

    Reply
  4. Hi priyanka after reading your blog i started imagining that i m already in spiti n enjoying my trip in high altitude remote villages, i love himalayas very much though i travelled manali,shimla,nainital,mussorie,dharamshala n kasol but its my dream to travel high altitudes like lahaul n spiti or ladakh but due to carona virus i missed my trip but next time i will surely visit lahaul spiti, thanks

    Reply
  5. Nice post. Read carefully as Spiti is not a general tour.

    Want to travel Spiti in the month of July, 2021 with my wife (50 yrs old). She traveled lot in Himalayan hill station but has no experience about high altitude, I have some experience of trekking though in my youth time. What’s your advice for avoiding high mountain sickness? Any oxygen bottle worth it?

    Regards,

    Sandip.

    Reply
    • Hi Sandip. Thanks for your message. The best way to handle high altitude is to take it slowly. Where are you going from? Ideally, one should increase the altitude slowly. So like going to 1000 m high first then to 2000 and so on. but as you might be doing the journey from Manali or Shimla you would do it in one day. Another highly recommended methods to avoid altitude sickness are to let your body adapt in the first two-three days. So when you arrive don’t do anything strenuous.Let your body get used to breathing the thinner oxygen. Drink a lot of water, like a lot of water. That helps. Avoid alcohol. Now when you feel your body is accomodating, you can start moving around a bit more. slowly and while keeping yourself hydrated. Sleep well. These are the main methods to keep altitude sickness away. Oxygen bottle won’t be the best because it would be hard for you to manage it on your own. And it shouldn’t get that bad and if it does you should immediately go to the doctor. Altitude sickness shouldn’t be ignored. If some people suffer nausea and vomiting or headache, first they let it pass and do all of these above things. But if nothing helps, visit a doctor. It shouldn’t get bad though if you are careful.

      Stay safe,
      Priyanka

      Reply
  6. Very nice post Priyanka .I want to visit Spiti but I don’t know if I can .May be I am too old 79 years . Love your web site .

    Reply
  7. I have terribly mixed feelings about Spiti, and have not yet come around writing about them. And you’re right, the real Spiti is in the villages. People there are far more genuine than the ones who stay in Kaza. The year we visited was a terrible drought, Spiti hadn’t received any snowfall that winter, and would end up getting rains like in the plains. I hope to visit again, and have more positive experiences than the last time. What about you? Do you think you’ll make your way there again, and maybe this time things will be different?

    Reply
  8. This really is a great post. I appreciate the depth of information you’ve included here. I’ve traveled but never outside of my own country on my own. You’ve actually made me question some of my own anxieties on why this is. : )

    Reply
  9. Loved those pictures. Spiti is one place I want to go back again and stay at Pin for a considerable amount of time. I was surprised how the villagers are not even influenced on seeing the city ppl or their life. they seem to just carry on with their farm and life.

    Reply
  10. hi my dear,

    i enjoyed your beautiful blog! Still travelling solo, so strong you are!
    I had 2 times bad luck after coming home. Six weeks ago i broke my shoulder, i can now start little exercises but it will take a long time to heel and to be back on the yoga- and sport trail again. So i had to learm to stay calm and patient…
    and then, due to a weak immune system of the broken shoulder which caused me so much pain i lost quite a lot of weight, i got a severe attack of herpes zoster in my face and skull. It starts with painfull spots and pains like migraine, and the nerves of the skin in face and head are damaged and give painsigns to the brain constantly. It’s for almost three weeks now and i went to the doctor almost daily and to hospital many times to the dermatologist, the neurologist and oculist, because my left eue is involved. It’s so f… painful, that i am taking heavy morfine pills and a strong medicine against neuralgic pains (and a anti depressant). Doctors can not predict how many more weeks of even months or sometimes even years this can take to disappaear.

    So i am very happy i am at home, in my own bed, with my loving and so good caring husband on my side.
    Again i feel the most important thing in life is being healthy.
    For now i sleep as much as i can (i get very sleepy of the morfine), do my shoulder exercises, eat as good as i can, and accept life as it comes (and goes)> We’ve learned that everything is impermanent, so also this episode once will be history and i will be able to live without constant horrifying pains. It’s like falling into a big bunch of nettles, or the feeling that thousands of ants are walking just beneath your skin. But still i try to count my blessings every day and to gether at least three positive moments a day (by beautiful flower pots, a short walk in nature, the new Lion King film etc etc).

    So your new story was a good half an hour to distract me a bit, and put a smile on my face.
    Next time i hope to te able to write you more positive news from the Netherlands. with love and a big hug Marnie

    Reply
    • Marnie, dear, I am sorry to hear about what you are facing. I send you all the warmth and energy from my little corner in India, where I am now. Pain is impermanent. We know that. Yet pain in itself means discomfort, sometimes a lot of it. I hope you feel better with every second. What is happening to you sounds extremely painful, and I know you and your husband have all the strength in the world to handle it. When a woman of your age can climb mountains and dares to go on the top of the world, I am sure it is only time that she will come over this pain, too. Rest well. Sleep well. I will keep sending you new stories and you can read as many as you like.
      Sending you love and more love from this side. Thank you for reading and for this message. Hugs and kisses.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Payment Received

Thank you for your support. It makes all the difference.
Monthly Donation
One-Time Donation