Budget Trip to Spiti Valley
This blog will guide you to plan a budget trip to Spiti Valley, based on my personal experiences during the tour.
Spiti, which is also known as “The Middle Land” or “Little Tibet” is a beautiful paradise on earth located in Himachal Pradesh district of India. The term “Middle Land” basically means the land between India and Tibet. It is a cold desert mountain valley and is a bit similar to Ladakh and Tibet.
Infact, the culture and tradition of this place seems to be similar to that of Tibet. Spiti valley is considered as a learning and cultural centre for the Buddhists.
I visited Ladakh in the year 2017 and the very next year in 2018, I decided to take a solo trip to Spiti Valley. It is said that visiting Ladakh or a similar kind of place is nothing but an addiction. An addiction towards the deserted mountains, an addiction towards the nature or whatever you say.
Best time to visit Spiti Valley
Like Ladakh region, Spiti also doesn’t receive the monsoon rains as it comes under rain shadow area. The rains do not reach up to this place in plenty because of the trans-Himalayan mountains that protects Spiti valley from clouds causing the rains.
So, during the month of June – September, the tourist inflow in Spiti valley is maximum as compared to other months. If you want to complete the whole circuit, entering from Shimla/Kinnaur side and finishing it from Manali side then, June till September is an ideal time as the road connecting Kaza in Spiti Valley to Manali remains open during this time only. Otherwise, from Shimla side Spiti Valley is accessible throughout the year.
How I took a budget trip to Spiti Valley
I took the journey to Spiti Valley in July 2018, from my hometown Dehradun. There are 2-3 buses from Haridwar to Shimla via Dehradun. So, I took the ordinary bus which leaves at 10 am from Doon ISBT. The distance from Dehradun to Shimla is 230 Kms via Nahan. The fare of the ordinary bus for this stretch was Rs. 390. So, I boarded this bus and in the evening at around 5:30 pm, I reached Shimla.
Buses that ply on Dehradun – Shimla road, generally takes more time than the usual because there is limited service of buses on this route, so the ones already running here, stops at most of the en-route small towns and villages, for the localite travelers.
Till the entrance of Nahan in Himachal Pradesh, the road is almost plain but, after that, you pass through the zig-zag mountain roads and within 1 hr you reach the height, where you can feel the cool breeze and enjoy the scenic views around.
For those, who are travelling to Shimla from Delhi, there are many buses on this route, from ordinary to luxury (Volvo). You can take anyone, as per your budget and comfort. Also, if you want to book the seats in advance, you can do so through HRTC’s (Himachal Road Transport Corporation) website (link given below). The starting bus fare on this route (Delhi – Shimla) is Rs. 440.
Evening, when I reached Tutikandi ISBT in Shimla, it was raining heavily. It was monsoon season at that time. I took a local city bus from ISBT to the old bus stand. The best thing I liked about Shimla is that you can easily commute locally from one place to another using these city buses, which you generally don’t get to see in other hill towns. The ticket cost ranges from 5-15 Rupees in these city buses.
On reaching Old Bus Stand, I got off from the bus and luckily the rain also stopped. I started walking further on the same road searching for a lodge/hotel for my night stay. So, after walking approx. half a km, I got a hotel that was near the Gurudwara, for which I had to pay Rs. 500 only.
You can go for the stay option in Gurudwara as well. Most of the Gurudwaras have Sarais where you can get a room at a very minimal rate. I was not so much lucky to get the room as the Sarai was completely sold out. It is better to make an advance booking if you would like to go with this option. I have shared the link below where you can list out the Sarais of the place you are visiting.
There are many hotels in Shimla and you can easily get accommodation there within a budget of Rs. 500-800 (may vary during peak season time). You will find few touts approaching you and asking if you require room in a hotel. I would suggest you to ignore them and better try to get the rooms on your own.
The next morning, around 6:30 am, I reached ISBT Tutikandi to catch a bus for Reckong Peo (locally called as Peo). I was a bit late in reaching the bus stand as the direct bus to Peo left the station just few minutes before I reached there. So, I consulted at HRTC inquiry counter. They suggested me to board the bus that was just departing for Sangla and asked me to get down at Rampur Bushahr from where I could catch the bus for Peo.
Sangla is a beautiful valley in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. The last Indian village Chitkul comes under Sangla valley only. As the place has different landscapes and beauty so I didn’t wanted to club it with my Spiti tour. I will take this trip separately in the near future. The road to Sangla diverts from a place called Karcham on Shimla – Spiti highway.
I followed the advice of HRTC guys, boarded the Sangla bus and took a ticket of Rs. 140 till Rampur Bushahr. The journey from Shimla onwards is very scenic as you pass through the forests of pine and deodar. On your way, you get to see small towns and beautiful villages of Himachal. The bus stopped at a local dhaba for breakfast, where you can have Paranthas or Maggi within Rs. 30.
Afternoon, around 12:30 I reached Rampur Bushahr and the bus to Peo was just standing at the bus station gate. I quickly rushed to catch it, took a ticket of Rs. 110 and got my seat in the front. After Rampur, the road becomes a bit narrow and then you enter Kinnaur district. The landscape of Kinnaur is completely different from Shimla. One can spot slopes that are covered with thick woods, fields, and orchards.
Evening at around 4 pm I reached the Reckong Peo bus stand. The bus stand is not too much crowded and there are not even many shops nearby. I walked out of the stand and started looking for a hotel. So, after walking for around 400 mtrs, I got a room in a lodge for which I had to pay Rs. 500. As there was nothing much to do in Reckong Peo so, I decided to visit Kalpa which is 5 km above Peo.
Please note, in the evening there are very few options to reach Kalpa from Peo. The last bus to Peo leaves at 5 pm. I took this bus for which I paid Rs. 15.
Kalpa is a picturesque little hamlet with awe-inspiring scenic views around. It is a place where one can find the fusion of both Hindu & Buddhist religions. The moment you reach Kalpa you get the best scenic views of the snow-capped mountains. One can witness the famous Kinner Kailash peaks from Kalpa. The whole Kinnaur valley is also famous for its Apple Orchards.
So, after taking a short tour of the Kalpa market and spending some time gazing around the beauty, I came back to my hotel in Reckong Peo. In return, as there was no option to come down to Peo so, I hitchhiked and luckily got lift in one local car. People in Kinnaur are very friendly and generous.
The next morning, at around 4:30, I reached Peo Bus Stand as I had to catch the bus for Kaza which leaves at 5 am daily. Kaza is a subdivisional district headquarters of Spiti Valley.
There was a huge rush at the ticket counter for getting tickets to Kaza and en-route stops, as this is the only bus service in this route. There is another bus at 9 am from Peo bus stand but it is till Tabo, an en-route destination towards Kaza. I waited for 15-20 min. and then got the last seat on the bus, near to the back door. The bus fare from Reckong Peo to Kaza was Rs. 350.
So, the journey to Kaza started at 5:15 in the morning. Though it was the month of July, the wind was really cool. All the windows of the bus were closed. After covering a distance of 25 Km, the bus reached Akpa which has a police check post. Due to close proximity to international borders and security reasons, foreign travelers need to have an inner line permit for visiting Spiti Valley. At Akpa check-post, they have to show their passports and their entry is recorded there.
After all the necessary checks, the bus started moving ahead and covering 16 km further it reached Spello where the driver stopped for breakfast. Spello is a small village with few local dhabas where you can have your breakfast (aaloo parantha / Maggi with tea).
Once you cross Spello, the terrain gets rocky and dusty. You start getting the feeling of entering into the cold deserts. The road after Spello is a bit narrow and dangerous. One needs to have good driving skills to drive through this region.
After a distance of 78 km, the bus reached Nako, a beautiful small village that still has been maintained in traditional atmosphere and architecture. If you have enough time for your holidays, then you must definitely take a night halt at Nako. There is a holy Nako Lake and Monastery to explore. Also, one can take a village walk around, to experience the local culture and tradition.
As I had time constraint so I skipped Nako. Passing through the winding roads after 36 km, the bus reached Sumdo which is the second check post and from here Spiti region starts. Moving further 3 km after Sumdo there is a diversion at Giu-Nalah for Giu which is known for 600 years old naturally preserved mummy. Giu is at 8 km steep drive from this diversion. But, to reach there one should have his/her own transport.
6 km further to Giu Nalah is Hurling, the place where HRTC drivers stop for lunch. Hurling is a small village with a roadside dhaba where you can have your meals at approx. Rs. 100 per head.
Post lunch, the journey continued in the Spiti Valley. The whole landscape is very scenic and the mountains are really adventurous. 20 km after Hurling is a village called Tabo, known for the famous Tabo monastery.
You will find many monasteries on the way to Kaza. 23 km after Tabo is a small place called Shichling from where the road to Dhankar diverts. From this diversion, Dhankar is 9 km. Dhankar is a scenic place and it is a large village with the famous Dhankar Monastery. Dhankar once used to be the capital of the Spiti Valley.
Evening, at around 4 pm the bus reached Kaza bus stand. Kaza is a district headquarters of Spiti Valley and it is the largest town in the area. One can find a blend of Hinduism and Buddhism here.
As soon as I got off from my bus, I started looking for accommodation. After walking 500 mtrs from the bus stand, towards the Kaza market, I got a room at one guest house (Tashi Delek) at Rs. 500 per night. You can easily get accommodation in Kaza within your budget. Evening, I took a walking tour of Kaza passing through the market. I also had to enquire for a two-wheeler for the next day, to visit the nearby attractions.
So, I visited one shop where two-wheelers are given on rent. The charges for a scooty/activa was Rs. 800 per day and for a bike (Royal Enfield), it was Rs. 1200 per day. This is only the rent amount of two-wheelers in which you have to fill the fuel on your own.
As I wanted to take an activa for a full day, but as I was travelling alone and the route from Kaza to Komik and Langza is a bit secluded in between, so I was not sure whether hiring an activa will be a good option or not.
So, I just came out of the shop and enquired about a taxi. If you are in a small group, then hiring a taxi is very economical for local sightseeing. But, if you are travelling solo (like me), then a single taxi is enough to loosen your pockets, as for full day taxi the charges were Rs. 3500 – Rs. 4000.
As I was inquiring for a taxi at a travel agency in Kaza, luckily one couple arrived there and they were also looking for someone with whom they can share the taxi fare for sightseeing. So, we talked to each other and after a short intro, we decided to share the taxi for the next day’s sightseeing.
The next morning, I met the couple near Kaza bus stand and around 8 am we departed for the sightseeing. So first, we made our way to Langza, a small remote village which is 17 km from Kaza. Langza is one of the high altitude villages and the beautiful spot in Spiti. One can witness the charming scenery around along with the sights of snow-capped peaks, barren plains, and some green meadows. There is a statue of Buddha that adds charm to this heaven.
Thereafter, we made our way to Hikkim, which is known for the world’s highest post office, lying at an altitude of 4440 m above sea level. The postmaster Mr. Rinchen Chhering has been working in this post office since 1983 and he is the person because of whom this post office was established and is being run at such a high altitude. Travellers visit this post office and they drop postcards from here to their loved ones, as memorabilia. It is advisable to carry a postcard and stamp with you as sometimes stamps and cards are not available here.
3 km further to Hikkim is Asia’s Highest village connected with a motorable road. The village name is Komic where the population is 114 capita. A beautiful village where one can find the small cluster of houses, the hills of Komic are rich in fossil life. There is one monastery also which is believed to be 500 years old. The walls of Komik Monastery are painted in beautiful bright colors.
Later, we came down towards Kaza and then took a diversion to Key Monastery which is 15 km from Kaza. But, first we decided to visit Chicham Bridge and Kibber Village which are 6-7 km further to Key Monastery.
Chicham bridge is said to be Asia’s Highest Bridge and it really seems to be, as the bridge is situated above a deep gorge about 1000 feet high. Once you look down from the middle of the bridge, the view gets really terrific. It took 14 years to complete the construction of this bridge, which connects Kibber village to Chicham village. Earlier, villagers used to cross this section by a rope which was very risky.
At just 3 km distance from Chicham Bridge is Kibber Village, which is one of the most beautiful villages in Spiti valley. In this modern era, you will find this neat and clean sober village. You will be charmed by the green fields here as agriculture is the main occupation of people living in this village. We had a finger-licking Chinese dishes here including noodles and momos, at very reasonable rates.
Thereafter, we made our way to Key Monastery which is one of the largest and prime monasteries in Spiti Valley. It is believed to be over a thousand years old monastery and is a religious training center for the Lamas. The walls of Key Monastery are decorated with beautiful murals and paintings. I was a bit lucky as I got a chance to witness the annual festival – Chaam that was going on in Key Monastery. It involves the Chaam dance performed by monks wearing vibrant masks and colorful costumes. It is a religious traditional ritual which is performed for the goodness of humanity and destruction of bad spirits.
So, after the sightseeing, we came back to Kaza and visited another beautiful monastery – Sakya Tangyud, belonging to the Sakya sect left in Spiti. The monastery is beautifully designed and is very eye-catching.
At last, we ended our sightseeing at the Indian Oil Fuel Station in Kaza, which is World’ Highest Retail Outlet. We clicked some photographs and then I thanked the couple for including me in the beautiful tour. After making the payment settlements, I came back to my guest house.
For Dinner, I went to a restaurant, where I had a thali at Rs. 100. There is a famous restaurant – The Himalayan Café, which serves really delicious meals. As next day, I had to travel to Manali from Kaza, so after my dinner, I went to Kaza bus stand and booked my seat for the next day trip to Manali. There is only one HRTC bus which operates from Manali to Kaza for 2-3 months only. This bus leaves Kaza around 5 am and reaches Manali around 3-4 pm.
Next day in the morning, at 5 o’clock, I reached Kaza bus stand and boarded the bus. Although, the distance from Kaza to Manali is 205 km and in mountains it should ideally take 5-6 hrs drive for this much distance. But, the road from Kaza to Manali is not proper and it seems to be a complete off-roading. You won’t be able to sit in a comfortable position in your vehicle as the road is very bumpy.
The bus stopped at Losar for breakfast and then it started climbing uphill to Kunzum Pass. Kunzum is a pass connecting Lahaul Valley to Spiti Valley. It is surrounded by snow peaks and the temperature remains very chill here. The highlight of this place is Kunzum Mata Temple, which is believed to protect this pass and the travelers passing through this route. Local drivers who drive through Kunzum pass pay tribute at the temple of Kunzum Mata.
After Kunzum Pass the bus started moving downhill and it reached Batal which is a diversion point for Chandratal Lake, one of the beautiful lakes in Spiti Valley.
After driving 32 km further, the bus reached Chhatru which is a small village where the HRTC buses stop for lunch breaks.
Just 18 km ahead of Chhatru is Gramphu, where the road meets at Manali – Leh highway. From this point, the bus climbs up towards Rohtang Pass and then on the opposite side, it ascends down to Manali. This stretch of the journey is very scenic as you start getting the view of green grasslands. As you descend down towards Manali from Rohtang pass, you get to see the green forests.
So, by evening I reached Manali where I spent some time in Mall Road and had my dinner in one of the restaurants.
As I was supposed to reach my hometown the next day so, I decided to took an overnight journey and boarded the direct bus to Dehradun on the same day.
After the continuous journey for more than 12 hrs, I reached Dehradun on the next day in the morning at 10 am.
As, it was a long and tiring journey so, for the next two days, I was just exhausted and took long sleeps.
But overall, the journey was really fantastic and the experience was awesome.