Spiti travel guide

Where is Spiti

Spiti is a region in Himachal Pradesh and is part of the Lahaul and Spiti district. Lahaul and Spiti are different regions. Kunzum Pass is the entrance to Spiti from Lahaul. Spiti is a cold desert with very little rainfall.

  • Keylong is in the Lahaul region and is the headquarters of the Lauhaul and Spiti district.
  • Kaza is in the Spiti region and is the subdivisional headquarters of the Spiti region.

How to reach

The only way to reach Spiti is by road. One should reach major cities such as Delhi or Chandigarh and drive to Spiti.

Spiti circuit

Option 1: Shimla > Kinnaur > Spiti > Kunzum Pass > Chandra Taal > Manali > Shimla

  • You can explore beautiful Kinnaur region en route.
  • You can take diversions to Sangla and Chitkul.
  • Chandra Taal is above Kunzum Pass and one should take diversion from the road to Manali.
  • With Kaza as base, you can visit Spiti villages; Mud, Dhankar, Key, Chicham, Kibber, Hikkim, Longza, Komic, Tashigong and others.

Option 2: Manali > Chandra Taal > Kunzum Pass > Spiti > Manali

  • You would miss out entire Kinnaur region.
  • Chandra Taal is above Kunzum Pass and one should take diversion from the road to Manali.
  • With Kaza as base, you can visit Spiti villages; Mud, Dhankar, Key, Chicham, Kibber, Hikkim, Longza, Komic, Tashigong and others.

Differences between the two routes

From Shimla via Kinnaur district

  • Much longer route
  • Altitude is gained gradually
  • Lower chances of being affected by AMS
  • Route till Kaza remains open throughout year, even in winter. One should be wary of road conditions in the Kinnaur district when traveling during monsoons.
  • BEST for first timers

From Manali

  • Shorter route
  • Altitude is gained very quickly
  • Higher chances of being affected by AMS
  • Route is closed in winters
  • Suitable for those who are very well experienced with the harsh Himalayan climate

You can easily reach Shimla or Manali from Chandigarh and Delhi. There are frequent buses. I would recommend Chandigarh as it is nearer and the travel would be less; you would also not miss any scenery en route. I recommend taking the Shimla route, especially for first-timers. Spiti is too harsh to try the harder route.

Best time to visit

June and July:

  • Best time to visit.
  • Accessible from Shimla and Manali.

August:

  • Peak monsoon in Kinnaur. Roads in Kinnaur can be dangerous with frequent landslides. Tread with extreme caution.
  • Accessible from Shimla and Manali.

September and October:

  • Autumn and most colourful season. Snow would have melted by now and only barren peaks remain.
  • Winter starts to set in.
  • Road from Manali closes in October. ONLY way to reach is from Shimla via Kinnaur.

November, December, January, February, and March:

  • Harsh brutal winter grips the region.
  • Road from Manali is closed. ONLY way to reach to reach Spiti is from Shimla via Kinnaur.
  • Water freezes in taps.
  • Roads to nearby villages can get blocked. Expect delays and road blocks.
  • Requires a lot of physical, mental and logistic preparation.

April and May:

  • Snow starts to melt.
  • Road from Manali is still closed. ONLY way to reach to reach Spiti is from Shimla via Kinnaur.
  • Less touristy and not difficult to travel as in winter.

Transportation options

  • Infrequent slow public transportation.
    • Frequent buses operate from Chandigarh and Delhi till Shimla and Manali.
    • From Shimla and Manali, buses to Kinnaur and Spiti get very less frequent. Only one per day.
  • Self- driven car or bike.
    • Roads in Spiti are brutal.
    • One MUST have experience of driving in Spiti or at least some extreme terrain. At several places, we saw small landslides and roads are too small for even one vehicle to fit.
  • Hire a cab.
    • BEST option for first timers.
    • Contact Mr. Tsering of Sakya Abode. He is “THE” best option to plan your entire Spiti trip. You can reach him on +91 94182 08987 or +91 89887 78987. He is a perfect gentleman and even solo female travellers can safely travel with him.
    • I HIGHLY recommend hiring a driver from the Spiti region; not from Shimla or Kinnaur.

Connectivity

Only BSNL sim has connectivity; even this is not entirely reliable. No other operator works. You can also use the mobile phones of your hotel staff to make calls.

What to wear and carry

  • Heavy winter woollen wear and layers in winters. Handwarmers are a MUST. Prepare for the worst cold climate.
  • Layers of cotton shirts during non-winter times. Also, a good jacket that can keep you warm at 0°C.
  • Appropriate waterproof footwear.
  • Head cap and gloves.
  • Medicines, especially Diamox.

What to expect

  • Awe-inspiring landscapes that leave you dumbfounded. Frankly, no words can describe this majestic landscape, mountains and region. My mouth was literally gaping when I saw these stunning Himalayan mountains.
  • It’s COLD. Coming from south India, where temperatures routinely touch 45°C every summer, it was really frustratingly cold to me even in June. I would die I guess, if I visit Spiti in winter.
  • Friendly welcoming polite Spiti people.
  • Cute heartwarming kids.
  • Delicious food; especially at homes.
  • Great teas. There were bad coffees but NEVER a bad tea.
  • Dirty public washrooms. Carry hand sanitiser and wet wipes.
  • Lastly but most importantly, AMS.

How to deal with AMS

I have written a post about AMS here. Please do check it out. Ensure that you carry a strip of Diamox.

Hospital

Kaza has a government hospital. The doctors are very friendly and are used to dealing with tourists and their problems with altitude. Don’t hesitate to visit the hospital if you feel sick in Spiti.

How different is Spiti from Ladakh

My friend Subbu, who has been to Ladakh and Spiti, mentioned that Spiti has:

  • Much harsher and colder climate
  • Worse and longer AMS symptoms
  • More dangerous and smaller roads

According to her, people who have breathing issues should avoid traveling to Spiti or at least take appropriate precautions after consulting doctor.

My other observations

  • To me, Spiti people seemed more polite and well-mannered than Kinnaur people.
  • Spiti drivers are way more professional than Kinnaur or Shimla drivers. This observation is based on 5 drivers we have seen during our trip. So take this observation with a grain of salt.

Is it safe for solo female travellers

ABSOLUTELY! Spiti felt much more safer than Kinnaur and Shimla.

Contact Mr. Tsering of Sakya Abode for all your Spiti travel planning on +91 94182 08987 or +91 89887 78987.

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