Spiti Valley – Not Just Another Travel Destination

Spiti 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 Chandrashila peak, 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, its nothing like this.

In this Spiti valley travel blog, we will see how Spiti is one of the most bizarre and gorgeous places to see.

But why the Spitian landscape is so distinct that everyone keeps talking about it? 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. 

Also See: Spiti Valley Photography – Images that Instagram won’t let you see.

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What does this Spiti Valley travel guide contain?

  1. Solo in Spiti- My journey from Manali to Spiti, finding homestays in different villages, commuting in the valley, making my way on foot and 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?

 

Solo in Spiti.

My journey from Manali to Spiti, finding homestays 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 travel blog when I arrived in Manali from Parvati valley.

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 told me in Parvati that the road to Spiti valley was now functional, the guy at the counter informed that buses weren’t running yet and that the route was closed.

I was disappointed, then, but now I am glad that there was no bus to Spiti. For when a bus tried to make its way to Spiti in July, she was forced to go back due to the bad road.

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 to hear that I couldn’t, yet, visit Spiti. One of the agents even suggested that as the road to Spiti wasn’t open, I should go to Leh by the Himachal Pradesh tourism bus which takes two days to arrive at Leh.

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

Tour agencies and transporters whose glass windows flaunted “travel to Spiti valley and Leh” posters fringed the lanes of old and new Manali. Finally, some travel agents told me that I could travel to Spiti in a shared jeep, which implied seven (or more) people stuck together in a claustrophobic jeep for at least 12-13 hours — if everything went well.

No way.

Another tour company agent said that 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 drive me back. He informed me that the vehicles that go to Spiti are from Spiti — people from Manali don’t send their vehicles up as the trip is costly.

Instead of waiting at the bus station I continued my search and went into another shop. The middle-aged man at the counter made a call. After a quick conversation, he told me that a tempo traveler was going to Spiti and that he had bought me the best seat for 1400 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. On most days, an early alarm makes me miserable irrespective of what lies beyond the process of waking up. And I didn’t just have to wake up but also had to buckle up my rucksack and backpack and walk to the bridge, alone, on a dark street.

My misery was answered well for the moon shined bright making the walk a pretty one, rather than a scared stumble.

Soon, 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 on the top 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.

Though I didn’t get much time to wonder how could a tightly-tied yoga mat fly away, I jumped into my single-seat, Shibhu started the car, and thus began my Spiti valley trip.

But he 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.”

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 almost safe with a few potholes or places where Shibhu had to tilt the tempo and drive with one wheel on the road and another on a higher pavement.

Also Read: Practical tips to learn yoga in the villages of Dharamshala – And the real meaning of yoga

 

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I didn’t feel the topsy curvy turns much even though I had stuffed myself with a grilled cheese sandwich along with a chai when we had stopped for breakfast a few hours into the drive.

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 and they can’t drive with passengers, men quickly find corners or just turn around and release themselves.

But what about women and girls? Well, pee problems were the least of my concern on my trip to Spiti valley. I think I would have to revisit this statement later. 

After driving through the gorgeous Rohtang, the lush-green and snowy peaks gave way to drier, rocky 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.

 

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Water gushed on the road. Tiny streams of water ran down snowy hills. Giant waterfalls fell on the road, washing away most of the narrow pathway. Sometimes the road was just a collection of unevenly-sized boulders settled in an unstable way over cold 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 and falling into nothingness.

Shepherds and their flock of sheep also walked on roads. So if we took a turn suddenly, the road disappeared and we stared at a few hundred sheep, at least, who didn’t want to get out of the way.

Icy peaks stared at 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. 

Related read: Hiking from Kalga village to Bhunbhuni – walking on hidden trails in Parvati Valley

 

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

I stared at the village of Lossar. An Indian flag waved in the sky. The village was a backdrop to the green fields which I came to know later were pea farms as nothing else grows in Spiti. A small collection of flat-roofed white houses stood silent. Everything seemed white except the red and maroon paint borders that ran around the houses like ribbons. Of course, the rugged mountains stood behind. 

 

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“Let’s go. Kaza is further away,” Shibhu said as he hurried to the car.

We arrived in Kaza at 6:30 pm after driving for about thirteen hours.

Everything seemed strange. First I thought I must be having the same anxiety that I have when I arrive for the first time in any place, alone. But this time my apprehensions weren’t baseless — Though gorgeous, Spiti is a strange land.

Suggested Read: Experiences from my first solo trip to Thailand

I walked around and took a homestay in Kaza. Streets of Kaza are full of homestays, now. Small grocery and medical stores always have people bustling around. I noticed a BSNL shop and went in for I hadn’t received any signal on my phone since I left Manali. Tiny roadside restaurants selling jalebis, chai, and samosa also seemed active. Then there were cafes and souvenir shops.

Kaza 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 hung on each house and danced with the wind.

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

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

 

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Kaza, as seen from the top of the temple.

 

Tiny Tibetan, Nepalese, and Spitian restaurants along with some cosmopolitan organics cafes fringe the Kaza streets and corners. I made one such Nepalese restaurant that served delicious mushroom momos, and thukpa my favorite (details later in the eat section.)

But Kaza doesn’t have much to see. Especially as I got up early and saw the Kaza monastery and temple in the first half of the day.

I had heard about Key monastery before I even planned to do a Spiti valley solo trip. As Key monastery is one of the historical places to visit in Spiti valley, I decided to go there.  I walked out of new Kaza to go towards Lossar, crossed the BSNL center and the world’s highest petrol pump on my left. Now I was on the road to the villages of Kibber, Chicham, and Key Monastery.

Hitchhiking or hiring your car or bike is the best way to travel in Spiti for only one HRTC bus connects the villages every day, that too at odd timings. I could never hire an entire taxi for myself or drive a bike.

At first, the idea of hitchhiking alone in the extraordinary valley frightened me. I wondered how would I walk on the strange roads that curve on rocky mountains. Miles and miles go by before you see any human or animal soul. What if the passing by cars and bikes didn’t see me at a blind curve?

I was walking with these thoughts in mind when someone suggested that I should wait for a lift at the petrol pump.

I went back to wait at the petrol pump. But no one who was going to the Key monastery had space in their car, and I gave up after an hour.

While I waited, men working at the petrol pump, travelers passing by on car and bikes, truck and transport drivers stared at me. Maybe they wondered that why was I traveling solo in a valley as remote as Spiti or perhaps they were worried?

Though a Spitian man told me he would drop me at Key the next day, I decided that I would take a bus to the Kibber village the next evening. For buses from Kaza to other villages run at 4 or 5 pm, stay in the village for the night, and return to Kaza the next morning. 

A Great Tip: Go to the taxi driver’s union near the bus stand in Kaza to get a good idea of things to do in Spiti valley.

Upon returning to my homestay, my homestay owner — an old lady who mostly lived by herself and was referred to as Ammaji— offered me tea and parathas. When I asked Ammaji about her family, she said that her parents died when she was young. Her husband died when he was 35.

Ammaji told me that her husband was in the Army and was posted in Kerala. After a medical checkup of 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.”

She walked a long distance to see him and then took him to a guru (a lama) in Dehradun. He got better only to return to Kerala to quit army when he got sick again and died a few months later in Kaza.

“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 hospital and knows about medicine, had two small children at that time. Now both her son and daughter are big and can look after themselves.

Gathiya, that is what it is called.” She smiled when I took her hand in mine and told that her hand was swollen.

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

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

 

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People of Spiti are tougher than I have ever known. I couldn’t take a picture of Ammaji. This is a picture of another Spitian lady from the village of Chicham. Don’t go by the flat fields. We climbed for an hour above Chicham to arrive at these pea farms.

Next day I went down to the river and got stunned by the gorgeous sight.

The sky was as blue as the kingfisher. 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. Clouds floated like wisps of moonlight. The green grass near the river smiled with golden flowers. The sun played hide and seek. Along with the sun, the shadows of the snow-white clouds danced on the mountains.

And I just stood there watching the magic of nature.

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

Now I got to see much more of the valley.

Spitian mountains are rocky and sharp. Most of the landscape is dry and barren. The 231 villages of Spiti are scattered throughout the valley, but some villages are more isolated than the rest. While walking or driving around the valley, you cannot even see most of these as they 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 explains why I couldn’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.

Vegetation is sparse. Only peas and barley grow in the open in Spiti and the rest of the vegetables and staples are grown in greenhouses. Cactus and other dry shrubs have found their space on some peaks.

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 that the vegetation and grass that Spiti and the surrounding valleys have in summers are medicinal. That is why these shepherds walk on foot for days to bring their village sheep to graze in the high mountains.

He must be right. For all the sheep that I saw were plump and healthy.

The Spiti river and many smaller, shallower streams cut through the valley. Locals call these streams nallahs and these nallahs create the most ruckus on the not-so-stable roads of the valley and the one leading up to the valley from Manali. 

Though Chicham bridge is one of the top places to see in Spiti valley, I didn’t go to Chicham to see the bridge.

I went there to experience village life and stayed for two nights in different homestays. As I hadn’t read any Spiti valley blog or researched anything about Spiti before, I didn’t know what to expect. The faintly working BSNL completely failed in Chicham. 

Evenings were full of conversations, tea, and biscuits. A drowsy TV ran in the background. Every kitchen was full of engraved, ceramic crockery — like we display chandeliers or showpieces, Spitians display artistic crockery.

As people of Spiti speak Spitian amongst themselves, I couldn’t understand much. Even if a tourist or foreigner is around, they never speak in Hindi unless they are alone with you.

 

Also Read: My experience of learning Spanish in South America to connect with people.

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But I still asked many questions to understand the daily life in India’s remotest valley better.

Villagers said that they had been living in the same villages for generations. Families work in the pea & barley farms that were assigned to them centuries ago. Solar & electric power connections run the whole house. Greenhouses provide daily vegetables. Cattle, naked sheep, and donkeys stay in a small shed behind the house.

Families wake up early. Then they milk their cows and go to their fields, come back, eat, & get ready for another trip to some far off place to fix the water pipe or take out grass or 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 and ghee and milk in their hands to tribute to the devta and get themselves blessed.

In the evening when everyone finishes work, they 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.

Also Read: How to make a schedule for your daily life.

 

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What a beautiful setting!

Though the jaw-dropping setting comes at a price.

Children as young as seven-years-old study far from their mothers, mostly in the city of Dharamshala, Shimla, or Manali — but only to return to Spiti. Village women climb mountains to work in their fields high up. Men guide curious tourists up the treacherous Himalayas to show them snippets of Ibex & the sought-after Snow Leopard. Girls, as young as ten-years-old, wake up to make rotis & then either join their mothers in the field or work at home.

Related read: Travel guide to traveling slow in Dharamshala

 

You can also find a boy from Uttar Pradesh working in each house. These boys live & work with the family, far away from their own homes, to make money & 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, water isn’t available in plenty.

These boys not only help the family in everyday routine 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.

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Group of Spitian women climbing up the Key Monastery to give ghee, milk, and other items to the lamas on the occasion of Dalai Lama’s birthday.

 

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Villagers playing classical instruments in the honor of a devta(god) who visited the village suddenly.village of Chicham.

 

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

One night after eating a late meal of paneer and ladies finger with rice in a homestay in Demul, I couldn’t sleep for the entire night. The heavy water of Spiti had upset my stomach, and I had to go to the toilet a few times.

In Spiti, water freezes in pipes in the winter. The pipes would then expand and break. So Spitians empty their water pipes and lock their regular toilets much before winter. Most of the people of Spiti use pit toilets even in summers. Pit toilets are basically a hole in the ground in which you release yourself. When you are done, you throw ash and dry animal dung over the waste.

When I woke up with a bad stomach and went to the pit toilet outside the house with my flashlight, a damp smell overpowered me. I went back to bed feeling claustrophobic.

Disconnected from family and friends back home as there was no phone connection, I was isolated. Even though the families were nice and the setting couldn’t be more beautiful, I couldn’t look to anyone for warmth.

People in Spiti are used to going about their work while never stopping to appreciate each other or show love and affection. They work like there is no tomorrow — for they have to. A few of the locals might greet with a Juleh in the morning but the rest ignored.  Most of the villages seemed empty and the houses looked eternally locked.

Even when the locals could speak to me in Hindi, most of the time they talked amongst themselves in Spitian. Not many of them were interested in my life from the plains.

But it was not just the conversation-less evenings or feeling of being different or using pit toilets or eating thick bread for breakfast that estranged me in the barren valley.

I missed a hug or a genuine smile in the cold desert.

Even though I needed more time to get used to the unusual things in Spiti, I decided that I would leave Spiti and go to Manali the next day.

As a travel blogger & writer, I travel more for the experience & conversations with locals rather than to chill & drink with friends. But this time while traveling alone in the Spiti valley, I wondered if I could handle the cold desert alone.

I am still not sure.

But I know that I have seen one of the most breathtaking landscapes of this world.

 

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

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

Spiti is very close to the Tibet border. We would not even have the road in Spiti if the valley was not so close to the Indian-China border. After all — meaning of Spiti is 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 located 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. You might not find any private taxi in Chandigarh and Bhuntar that drives you until Kaza (for the expert drivers who drive on the road 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?

You have two options to arrive in Spiti — You 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 road from Manali to Spiti as this is a shorter way. But this route is only open for a few months of July and August and then it shuts down due to snowfall. As I said earlier, this is a nasty road.

How to reach Spiti Valley from Manali?

You can

  • either take a bus
  • or buy a seat in a shared jeep or a tempo traveler
  • or hire your private car and drive
  • or hire a bike and drive from Manali to Spiti.

If you take the HRTC government bus — make sure the bus is functional when you plan to go. 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.

If you take the shared tempo traveler — 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 mostly expert drivers drive on these roads. Price for one seat should be between Rs 1000 to 1400.

If you take the shared jeep — I guess the same instructions as above. Prices might vary.

If you take a private taxi — Make sure you 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 no roads. The travel agent would arrange for the permit so you don’t have to worry about the permit.

If you drive your car — Make sure you have a strong car. An Alto might not work but a Swift would. Also depends on your confidence. Many people who were driving by themselves asked our driver if they would arrive in Spiti with the car they had brought. He said that it depends on the driver for the roads are always bad but people make it. Carry extra fuel and water. You will have to take a permit about which I have written separately.

If you drive your bike — You can rent a bike in Manali. Test it well. Carry extra fuel. Be confident about driving on those roads. You will have to take a permit about which I have written separately. A bike trip to Spiti valley is the most fun way to experience the valley but also require extreme caution.

If you are on foot or cycle — Keep going. You would reach your destination. Stay safe.

Also Read: My Manali blog to discovering offbeat Manali, India’s popular hill station

 

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?

If you want to take the Manali route — Fly from Delhi to Bhuntar, Amritsar, Dharamshala, or Chandigarh. You can also take a bus from Delhi to all these places. From there, make your way to Manali.

If you want to take the Shimla route — Drive or take a bus to Shimla. You can also fly from Delhi to Shimla. The flights aren’t that often and are expensive. Try your luck.

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

 

How to reach Spiti Valley from Bangalore?

If you want to take 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, make your way to Manali by road.

If you want to take the Shimla route — Fly from Bangalore to Delhi or Bhuntar, Amritsar, Dharamshala, Pathankot, or Chandigarh. From there, make your way to Manali by road or fly from Delhi to Shimla.

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

Also Read: Practical travel tips to Parvati Valley – An account of all the villages I visited, other logistics, and running away from loudspeakers.

 

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Who needs a permit for Spiti Valley?

Traveling to Spiti from Shimla –
If you are an Indian citizen, you do not need to get a permit to travel to Spiti from Shimla. But if you are a foreign traveler, you would need an inner-line permit to travel to access the Kinnaur valley.

Traveling to Spiti from Manali —

Indian and foreign citizens, both, need to get a “Rohtang pass and beyond” permit for their vehicles. But if you hire a taxi, the travel agency could get these permits. Or if you are traveling by bus, the bus driver has to make sure that he has a permit to drive through Rohtang Pass.

From where to get the Rohtang Pass permit or the permit to travel beyond Rohtang towards Spiti valley? 
You can apply for the permit from Rohtang permits official website.

You do not need the permit on your return journey from Kaza to Manali.

What could be your Spiti Valley itinerary?

 

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  1. Go to Kaza — You would go there as your first stop.
    Walk around in Kaza. Go to the river. See the temple and Kaza monastery. Eat at local places.
  2. Go to Key monastery the next day — You can also stay there. I couldn’t stay at the monastery for Dalai Lama plans to visit it next year, and the monastery is under renovation and the dormitory is closed for tourists for the year of 2019.
  3. From Key make your way to Kibber —Walk around in Kibber. I didn’t find the village so impressive that I suggest you stay there.
  4. From Kibber go to Chicham — Chicham is a beautiful village. While going there you would cross the highest bridge in Asia which is known as Chicham bridge. Stay in Chicham for a day or two. As much as you can. Nights are starry. Ask the homestay people to take you to their pea and barley fields if they can. Work with them. If they have got fields which are further up in the valley, you would get to see the best views of Chicham and the valley. Carry your camera. Make sure you walk slowly as you are high up. If you visit Chicham in December, you can also see the snow leopard. Many villagers arrange these trips and you can ask at your homestay.
  5. Go 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. Lhangcha is not so extraordinary, but Hikkim and Komic are gorgeous. Spend a few days in these villages depending on the time you have.
  6. Return to Kaza or directly make your way to Dhankar or Demul.
    Dhankar has a very old monastery and has historical significance.
    Demul is gorgeous and is located much higher up than Kaza. You can even see Himalayan deer on your way to Demul for the mountains there has more grass which the deer comes to eat.

These are just some ideas. You can visit a few or as many villages of Spiti as you want. It depends on the time you have. If you are traveling to Spiti solo, the best way to commute is to hitchhike. Or you can take the buses on their scheduled times. But hitchhiking is easy for solo travelers as you are just one and is easy to fit one person. Many Indian travelers travel in Spiti by car and just wave your hand to request for a lift.

But also remember that hitchhiking doesn’t work every time. Or might take some time before you get a lift and you will have to walk. So be patient and get walking.

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 do not even need to book beforehand.

The village community decides who would host guests on a particular day, and they take turns in doing so. When you arrive at any village, the people will show you the homestay for the day. Some villages also have homestays that run all around the year.

My homestay in Kaza was right next to the bus stand in a tiny lane opposite to 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.

Also when you stay in a homestay, you need to know a few things beforehand:

  • Spiti homes are made out of mud which makes them smell a bit different. But they are brilliant for keeping the homes cold and warm in the respective seasons. Also, the houses are meant to suffer severe cold so they are short-heighten and small. You might feel a bit claustrophobic in the beginning.
  • 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.
  • You should carry your toilet paper and other toiletries. But Spitian homes don’t have a bathroom. Either you can shower in the greenhouse or not at all.
  • You will get food along with stay but okay with what they serve for (you know why. )

I paid around 500 rupees for a night’s stay 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. I guess that’s as good as it gets.

If you would like to stay in hotels, remember that you cannot find hotels in each village. Kaza has many hotels, even comfortable fancy ones, but not the other remote villages. You can look for a hotel in Kaza on Booking.com here.

But to truly experience Spiti’s daily life you must stay with a family even if for a night.

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.

Your homestay would also give you breakfast and dinner. If you ask them, lunch, too. Their food would be simple dal with roti and curry or momos or thukpa.

Do try eating at the Nepalese restaurant near German Bakery in Kaza. The old couple serves amazing Nepalese food, and their mushroom momos and thukpa would make you go back again and again.

How is the Spiti Valley Weather?

I went to Spiti valley in July. Most of the days were bright and sunny then. Nights get colder but two blankets were more than enough. You might need to carry a jacket during the day if the sun hides, for the valley is mostly windy. It rained slightly when I was there. As Spiti is a cold desert, you will feel dry. You should drink plenty of water to hydrate yourself. Water also helps with the altitude.

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 for these are the warmest months in Spiti. But a lot of people also like to go to Spiti in December to see the snow-white valley. Spiti in winters would be a different experience altogether. You can also see the snow leopard near some of the high villages in winter for then they come down to hunt (as animals have also descended due to harsh cold and lack of vegetation in the higher mountains).

I would suggest that first go to Spiti in summers. Walk around, see, and experience the valley. Then you can decide if you would like to go there in winter, too.

 

What to pack for your trip to Spiti Valley?

Here are some of the essential things you should bring to Spiti.

  • A good pair of jeans – Even though I am not a big fan of wearing jeans and love many other more comfortable bottoms, sturdy jeans can keep you pretty warm in Spiti.
  • good hiking shoes for women and good hiking shoes for men – A must-have in Spiti.
  • warm jackets for men and for women – Spiti is cold even in summers.
  • warm and waterproof gloves – essential for hiking and the outdoors.
  • woolen socks for women and for men – For hiking and to survive the chilly winds of Spiti.
  • a woolen sweater – Or buy one from Himachal.
  • a scarf for women and for men – Spiti gets very windy. You can also buy woolen scarves in other parts of Himachal. Or find a community-friendly shop in Spiti and buy from there.
  • a pair of warm leggings or thermals for women and for men – to stay warm.
  • yoga pants for women and for men – Good for the long travel and for hiking around in Spiti.
  • Also, bring a strong backpack as you would travel in weird weather and on rough routes – I have been using a North Face backpack for about four years now and have no complaints.
  • A travel towel – Carry a light travel towel like this one for it will save you a lot of space.
  • A first-aid kit – Always carry one while traveling. But in Spiti, you should especially have one for most of the villages don’t have a medical shop.
  • Lifestraw water bottle – Comes with an inbuilt filter, and you can fill it anywhere. Please avoid buying plastic bottles in Spiti. I bought two bottles as the hard water of Spiti didn’t suit my stomach.
  • Memory foam travel pillow – for a good sleep while traveling from Manali or Shimla to Spiti. Don’t let your head hang loose when you can rest it on a pillow, something I learned with long-term travel.
  • A good camera – Nikon D3400 is a very good choice for the price. I use Nikon for all my photography now. This camera comes with two lenses, and the one with the higher resolution if perfect for bird photography if you are interested.
  • Flashlight – Please don’t go without this one.
  • High-altitude sickness pills – Don’t treat high altitude sickness casually. It is a fatal problem, and you should ask for help as soon as you feel you are getting the symptoms.

(I have selected only the good brands in the above links as you shouldn’t trust the cheap, local brands when you are trying to survive in icy winds of Spiti.)

This is a list of basic travel items that you would use in Spiti. But don’t forget to bring along your other regular clothes like t-shirts and undergarments.

Is Spiti safe for a solo female traveler?

Even though people found it strange that I was traveling to Spiti alone, I never felt threatened or unsafe. Everybody helped with directions. If I was hiking on my own, I would make sure not to go out in dark.

But Kaza definitely had some drunkards who wanted to talk a lot. Some people from Punjab and other parts of Himachal who are now working in Kaza also tried to be too friendly. No other comments apart from that.

 

That’s all folks. Now you tell me.

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

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6 Comments

  1. Harsh Wardhan September 28, 2019 at 3:02 am

    Liked your blog Interesting
    You are a brave girl, continue with your adventures

    Reply
    1. Priyanka Gupta September 30, 2019 at 4:15 pm

      Thank you, Harsh. Happy that you liked my blog 🙂

      Reply
  2. Chittra M August 6, 2019 at 12:01 am

    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
    1. Priyanka Gupta September 30, 2019 at 4:16 pm

      Thanks, Chittra. Go again and let me know how it goes for you. Their ignorance by choice amazed me as well.

      Reply
  3. Marnie August 3, 2019 at 1:46 am

    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
    1. Priyanka Gupta August 3, 2019 at 9:32 am

      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

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