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Travelling to Spiti Valley? Must know things before you pack your bag for this road Trip!

Published on 08 Oct 2019

Travelling to Spiti Valley? Must know things before you pack your bag for this road Trip!

We are sure you have heard about Spiti a lot of times and from a lot of sources. After all is a cold mountain desert, Spiti is for travellers who like to drift away from the tourist trails. It’s villages remain remotely tucked away in the lap of the mighty Himalayan range of Himachal Pradesh and it is needless to say that you can hike along Snow Leopard and Himalayan Wolf habitats, visit monasteries dating back over a 1000+ years. Here you can witness a fascinating culture and cuisine different from the rest of India, and meet the kindest of people who live the harshest of lives. This is a world os beauty and happiness.

These are top 10 tips you should keep in mind before head towards Spiti Valley:

1. What is the Best Time to Visit Spiti according to weather?

Spiti is a gem and do you know why? It is because it remains practically cut off from the rest of India for at least 6 months of the year as thick Himalayan snow blocks the mountain passes, making it almost impossible for road transport to pass through, even on the Shimla-Kinnaur route. The summer months from late May to late September are therefore the best time to visit Spiti. As the weather warms up, the snow slowly melts and gets cleared away to open up road travel to the valley.

To survive the harsh conditions, the Spitian people celebrate festivals and most family affairs (birthdays, weddings) in the winter months, stocking up on food and local alcohol, the winter months are privy to Spiti’s unique and introspective culture, though survivable only by extreme adventurers.

2. How to Reach Spiti?

There are 2 road routes leading to the Trans-Himalayas of Spiti, one from Shimla via the Kinnaur valley, and the other from Manali. The former takes a minimum of 2 days, with a night’s halt in Kalpa or Reckong Peo, and though longer, gives more time to gradually acclimatize to the altitude. The latter takes 12-14 hours, depending on road conditions.

3. What should be in my Bagpack?

As a cold mountain desert, the weather in Spiti is almost confusing! The sun’s rays are harsh enough to burn your skin, while shaded areas remain cool enough to wear a jacket.

4. Should we Solo or in a Group?

Whether you travel by yourself or join a group trip is a personal decision (best option). The villages of Spiti, though remote, are home to some of the kindest, friendliest people in India, and are very welcoming of solo travellers. You do need a heart for adventure though – from the precarious journeys on rickety state buses, to hitchhiking with strangers, to travelling without a plan (most guesthouses or home-stays can’t be pre-booked online).

Alternatively, you can join one of Book Weekend Tours group/solo trips to Spiti, curated in collaboration with a local organisers with varying degrees of adventure, hiking, culture and sightseeing, planned such that your carbon footprints in this ecologically sensitive region remains low.

5. Do I need any Permits?

Indians going to Spiti, from Shimla or Manali, do not require permits to enter Spiti. Foreign identity holders entering Spiti via the Kinnaur route from Shimla require inner-line permits, since this route takes you very close to the Tibetan border. All the permits can be obtained at Reckons Peo near Kalpa, and take upto a few hours to be issued.

6. How is the Network Connectivity?

Only one network provider (BSNL) obtained in Himachal Pradesh works in Spiti, and that too only in Kaza (Spiti’s administrative capital) and some of the lower villages. There is only one cyber cafe in Kaza, that draws on the army satellite to offer an internet connection whose speed reminds you of the dial-up days!

7. How much Fit I should be for traveling to Spiti?

The high altitude of Spiti (3300-5000 meters) needs considerable acclimatization for every traveller, whether or not it’s your first time to such an altitude. It’s best to make your journey up slowly, either via Shimla, halting halfway in Kinnaur, or by spending the previous night in Manali on the route via Rohtang Pass.

Note: Those with lung or heart conditions or known breathing problems, are advised to consult their doctor before travelling up to the valley.

8. How about accommodation options in Spiti?

The mostly used accommodation type in Spiti is home-stays. Some Spitian families, in the higher, more remote villages, have opened up their homes and hearts to travellers, with the help of Ecosphere, a social enterprise that works on the sustainable development of the region. Homes here are basic, but are roomy and spacious, with the mesmerising view of mighty Himalayas in their balcony!

9. How much money should I carry?

You’ll find an ATM or two in Kaza, but their functioning is often erratic, so it’s advisable to carry enough cash from Manali / Shimla. There are no money exchangers in Spiti.


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