Road Trip To Spiti

If you ever would want to visit a remote and rugged mountain region with least amount of development then this is the place for you . As the road conditions are tough much tougher then Ladakh, Spiti road trip is ideal for travellers/drivers/cyclists looking to challenge themselves.

There are small villages interspersed along the gorgeous Spiti river and also on the many village roads that branches from the main highway. These villages are sparsely populated and still live in a traditional way untouched by the modern way of living.

Its this simplicity of the region that will charm you. One would get ample opportunity to be one with nature, to enjoy a lung full of fresh air. Visit the old monasteries and experience the harsh, arid climate of the region.

The summer of 2013, in June brought massive destruction to the region. The region was completely cut off from the Kinnaur Side as well as Maling Nalla wrecked havoc and blocked the road and cut off the Tabo/Kaza side. The route however remained open from the Manali side till Tabo.

Approach & Seasons of the Spiti Valley:

Spiti Near Losar

One can approach the Spiti Valley either from the Kinnaur Side or the Manali side. The altitude gain is gradual from the Kinnaur while it is sudden if you arrive via Manali.

One can spend a few nights at Kalpa or Sangla before driving into the Spiti Valley. The flip side however is that Kinnaur region receives good amount of rains and because of the destruction in the summer of 2013, the roads may get blocked due to landslides.

Subsequent to the flooding of 2013, There was massive restoration work was undertaken and by 2017, the roads have been rebuilt mostly and it now accessible to the leisure traveler as well.

Till June End, Spiti is accessible only via Kinnaur side ( Depends on snow fall ). No fixed date is given by govt

From the Manali side, however it is much more predictable approach. Kunzum La is challenging pass because the conditions of the roads is really bad. The pass usually opens in July and remains open till snowfall happens in Oct/Nov. As is common in the region, there is possibility of snow anytime throughout the year. Do not be surprised that the high passes are closed even during the summer months, it is though a temporary phenomenon and usually clears in few days. In order to plan well, do keep a few buffer days for any contingency.

Kunzum La, generally opens in July and then you can do the complete trip of Spiti

This is purely dependent on the amount of snow fall in winters and sometimes the region receives heavy snow fall in late winters for example March. This delays the opening of Pass

In terms of challenge, when you drive through in early season, you will encounter maximum snow at Kunzum La coupled with extremely bad roads. The streams also will be at their raging best if you cross after 2 PM, this will be an good test of your driving skills. So wear your seat belts and be ready for the challenge. By July, the ice on the road would have melted mostly but the streams would still give you a challenge.

Adrenaline junkies go in July and Aug and enjoy the challenge of crossing multiple streams 

Sept/Oct will be easiest to negotiate and in Oct you will also witness the Autumn hues with leaves changing its color from Green to Yellow. Autumn is a delightful time to experience this region and is one of the safest time to visit as well. So for families/couples not looking for any unexpected situation Sept/Oct is ideal.

Sept & Oct are ideal for a serene experience of Spiti Valley .. Perhaps sometimes November also

Kinnaur ( Gateway to Spiti )

When you approach Spiti via Shimla, your first logical halt is Kinnaur. Kinnaur allows you to begin the process of adjusting to altitude and prepares you for a comfortable trip to Spiti. Kinnaur by itself is also extremely beautiful

Nagasti Village

There are 2 destinations options, Kalpa or Sangla. Between the two our choice is Sangla for its sheer beauty.

The Hike to Nagasti Village from Chitkul is a must on your trip to Sangla

Beautiful Chitkul Village

Half Column

Baspa Valley, Sangla

Walk from Sangla to Raksham is magical

Baspa Valley

Sangla to Spiti Journey – Night halt at Nako

At Khab Sangam, Sutlej enters from China into India

Khab Sangam

Loops around Khab Sangam

Loops around Khab

Drive carefully around Khab as the loops and roads are quite narrow

Nako Lake ( Alt: 3200 m) – Small and Sere

Nako Lake

Nako Lake

When you approach Spiti from Kinnaur, this is the first sight of Spiti village. Technically speaking the Spiti Valley begins from ITBP check post at Sumdo but after Khab Sangam, the terrain will be dry and barren and Nako Lake will give you the feel of the climate in Spiti

If you have seen the Great Lakes of Ladakh, then this will be bit of a disappointment as it will be more of a pond then a lake.

But it is a small and peaceful village and spending a night in the village will give you a good introduction to the Spitian way of life

Descending from Nako into the Spiti Valley

First View Of Spiti River

The Mystical Mummy of Gue, Spiti

Shorty after your cross Nako, you will cross Maling Nullah.

Malling Nullah is notorious for landslide when it is raging with water

After you cross the Nullah, continue to drive till Sumdo via Chango ( If you drive in Sept / Oct you can view the apple laden farms in Chango ). Shortly after Sumdo watch out for a detour to Gue Village from the main highway.

Mummy1Gue has a very interesting story behind it.

The story goes that about 45-50 years ago when the Indian army was digging to build bunkers at Gue village, their digging instruments hit a body. This body started bleeding from the corner of its mouth and they couldn’t really decipher what was going on. The body was excavated placed in a small mud hut. No special precautions have been taken to preserve this body. It is said that the body is still in the same state as the day it was dug out and that its hair is still growing and monks from around come once a year to collect its hair to take it back for worship. It is said that this body is of a lama in deep meditation and that he still hasn’t died. Whatever the real story, it does make for an awesome experience and a great story to tell firsthand.

From Gue, Tabo is roughly 50 kms. In Tabo visit the 1000 year old Monastery which is made entirely from Mud … Relish the local architecture and the peace here

Quaint village of Tabo in autumn 

Tabo Village in Autumn

All mud Tabo Monastery 

Tabo Monastery

Villages Of Spiti

Many Spiti is yet to experience the modern way of living. The people still live the way they used to lived centuries ago. It makes for an interesting experience to understand the local culture and the local way of living. In order to do this, plan a night with the local family and have a home stay experience in any of the villages .. Some options are ..

Langza ( Alt: 4500 m)

Langza Village @ 14,500 ft

Certainly the most scenic of the Spit Villages. Your visit to the region is incomplete without visiting this village. This is the village where you can let the fossil hunter in you to come alive

Fossils Of Spiti

Kibber

The Ki Monastery on way to Kibber village

Ki Monastery

You can experience how locals make Chang and Arrak, an alcohol made from barley. You can also learn how local weave a carpet manually without any machines. 

Hikes in Spiti

For those interested in Hikes, lakes of Dhankar and Mane offer good opportunity to experience the wilderness of Spiti region.

Both these hikes are about 5 hrs round trip from respective villages

Drive to Pin Valley National Park

At the confluence of Pin and Spiti river, lies the gateway to Pin valley National Park. When we hear the term national park, an image of thick forest comes to our mind. This is not the case in Spiti, it is desert area and hence no vegetation grows here on its own .. Only villages in Spiti have vegetation … A day trip to Pin Valley will be an interesting drive from Kaza ….

Pin Valley

Pin Valley

 

Chandratal – High Point of your Road Trip to Spiti ( Alt: 4500 m)

Chandratal @ 14500 ft

Chandratal ( Meaning the moon lake ) is a emerald green lake , well it changes its color with the day, lake at a lofty height of 14,000 ft above sea level. Few places on earth are as beautiful as this place, surrounded by majestic Himalayas and undulating meadows and above all peace & serenity. SUV can go very close but not all the way. Last 2 kms is done on foot to reach the lake.

No camping is allowed near the Chandratal Lake

All campsite are about 2 kms short of the lake

Proper acclimatization is required to sleep at Chandratal and when you approach the trip from Kinnaur it automatically happens

Chandratal Lake@ 14000 ft

After a night in Chandratal. Next day, head to Manali via Rohtang Pass to complete the Spiti Trip.

The drive from Chandratal to Manali is a delight for off roading enthusiast and scary for leisure traveller. There are numerous raging streams between Batal and Chattru and then right after Chattru till you merge on to the Rohtang Road ..

Enjoy these challenging sections and end the trip on a high ..

 

Pangi Valley can be added to the Spiti Trip as well provided you have more time.

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  • 5 star review  We are back to our busy life but thank you so much for arranging this wonderful flawless trip for us. We were not sure what to expect from this trip but everything was just perfect , hotels /tents/ vehicles/Permits everything, we were not bothered about anything, Unwind took care of everything.All the information provided by unwind was very useful, appreciate their prompt response whenever contacted. Waiting for our next trip, hope it comes soon and needless to say will contact unwind either for another Ladakh or Spiti trip. Wish you all the best !! hope you provide packages for other exotic places as well!

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    5 star review  Sunil had planned our trip to Lahaul and spiti very meticulously. Every day was different and our stays very memorable. A trip that is unforgettable.

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    4 star review  We are back to our busy life and we want to say thank you for such an amazing trip. All the arrangements including tents, meals and tour guides were awesome. We had a very good time there. And we’d like to share some beautiful moments with you.... Once again, thank you for organizing everything professionally. Best regards, Team Natasha Enterprises. See more

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  • 5 star review  Sunil had planned a self driven trip for us from Delhi to Leh in June 2017. It was very well planned and was perfect!! Sunil had multiple discussions with us to understand what our interests are and changed the itinerary accordingly. We had a great time and made some nice memories. Definitely looking forward for my next trip with Unwind outdoor.

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    5 star review  Sunil we enjoyed a lot . thankyou for nice memories ...

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    5 star review  Sunil is the best in business.. Planning is spot on and execution is even better. Nothing can beat his recommendations, be it for tourist spots or food outlets. Right from the moment we got our car in Srinagar to the drop at Delhi airport, everything was just perfect. Everything was so seamless that helped us to enjoy the beauty of Leh/Ladakh even more. Due to road blockage, we had to adjust our itinerary and at a single phone call Sunil made it look so easy to change the accommodations. Thanks for helping us create beautiful memories for a lifetime..Looking forward to the next trip with them.

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  • 5 star review  We had a self drive from Delhi to Spiti Valley in August 2017...and it was an amazing experience. Special thanks to Unwind and Sunil for making this happened. All the arrangements including Car and Hotels were superb. Also the instruction call by Sunil just before the tour was very much helpful. Looking forward for the next trip with Unwind....

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    5 star review  We had the most wonderful time on our trip and we have you to thank for that. You really made this leh ladakh self drive road trip, it’s sights and history, come alive and be very meaningful for each of us. We really enjoyed every moment, even when there were tensions in J&K. 🙂We appreciate your knowledge, expertise, kindness and sense of humor. The arrangements made from your end were extremely perfect and in timely manner.This trip has become a life time memory for us.We all friends are thankful to you.

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    5 star review  Thank you Sunil for the lovely trip you arranged for us and our family....everything was well organised and according to the plan....we loved the cars and the hotels given to us..There were no delays and Every thing went smoothly.

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    7/19/2017
  • 5 star review  Had one of the most memorable and wonderful Leh to Srinagar trip organized by Sunil and team. All intricate details were well taken care of to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Right from the choice of hotels to the vehicle quality and the warmthness of the drivers, everything was top-notch. Strongly recommended. Looking forward for the next one. Cheers! 😀

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    5 star review  We did a road trip in June 2017 covering Delhi- Srinagar-Kargil-Leh- Nubra- Pangong- tso moriri-Sarchu-Manali-Narkanda-Sangla-Delhi, completely planned and organized by Sunil. With Amazing stays and a great vehicle we completed the trip with mesmerising memories and Awe by the Nature. We shall definitely return to Unwind outdoor for more trips in future.

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    5 star review  My family and I vacationed in Ladakh with Unwind Outdoor in May 2017. It was a magical experience. Sunil's arrangements were excellent and the memories will last for a lifetime. We flew to Leh and visited Nubra , TsoMoriri and Pangong.Firstly, the driver for our trip, Namgyal was super. Very safe and totally professional. The accommodation organized in Leh, Pangong , Nubra and TsoMoriri was very good - with exceptional service and often very good food. Also, Sunil prepared us well for potential altitude sickness.Of course, Ladakh itself is pristine and not overly commercialized yet. We have traveled on vacations across the globe and this trip was undoubtedly one of the best . Thanks to Unwind Outdoors for facilitating this

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  • 5 star review  Unwind Outdoor has helped us to realize our dream !! Like anybody we were little skeptical in the beginning with the whole Leh ladakh plan but Sunil ensured it to be as perfect as it could be. It was a 12 Day road trip from Delh to Delhi( via Manali-Jispa-Leh-Nubra Valley-Pangong tso- leh-tsomoriri-sarchu- manali- chandigarh) on Scorpio 4X4 S4+. The itinerary which he provided had all the required information including the journey time, places to eat and visit . Also the vehicle was in very good condition. Sunil was constantly in touch with us and made sure that we have comfortable & memorable trip. Looking forward to have another road-trip next year with Unwind Outdoor. 🙂

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    5 star review  Sunil is a spectacular trip planner. Given the uncertainty that generally prevails during a Leh trip, Unwind takes care of all last minute modifications with panache. There is no better way for you to enjoy Leh than with Unwind. And after all the excellent service, their pricing is still very competitive. Thank you unwind for that spectacular trip.

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    5 star review  Sunil, after I ran 21k Marathon I bragged about it for years. The same is being repeated again, with my ambition to drive across the Himalayas, which was almost faded with Srinagar under curfew. You and Chetan were the spark to our fire that we could do this drive and without a single trouble. Driving is a passion but driving thru places where there are no roads is trouble, but your breakup of program and awesome car condition helped us actually sail thru. Three cheers and five stars.

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    5 star review  hi Sunil you made our trip memorable after chaos of srinagar and specially for me you are really a perfect for Travel Industry where people see Dreams and you Really convert them in to Reality Sunil i am also from travel industry but i learnt a lot from you during our entire booking your patience and your solutions outstanding you have selected all the hotel camps were fantastic and gave us a real adventurous fill specially in sarchu camp with 1 degree cold and really thank ful to you and all my friends for me it was ZINDAGI NA MILEGI DOBARA EXPERIENCE Diving from raft in 3 degree chilling water amazing Thanks once again .......... any query to me for adventure you are only in my list.cheers Sunil..

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    5 star review  We leveraged on unwind outdoors for our Leh self drive trip. Extremely good experience. Due to Srinagar situation, we changed our plans just 1 day before travel date and Sunil accommodate perfectly. All the location stays were par excellence with breathtaking view. Best choice of hotels and camps. Simply wonderful.

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  • 5 star review  Sunil Kapoor is one of the best person i met in travel industry.We had booked our tour of self drive cars from Srinagar to Leh - Manali - Chandigarh of 11 days, just one day before we came to know about unrest in Srinagar, and we thought it would cancel our trip, but to our surprise Sunil Kapoor changed our whole itenery with all hotel bookings, and gave the cars from Delhi. We had paid the full amount to Sunil then also he changed the route and the hotel bookings, no other travel agent would do and that also in Delhi it truly surprising. Sunil has full knowledge of the route and the hotels he selected was also the best in that place. I highly recommend Sunil Kapoor & Unwind Outdoor tours to all my Friends,Regards, Shalin Gandhi

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    5 star review  Wow. wow, wow. What a experience! We took the route of Delhi - Jammu - Srinagar - Leh - Sarchu - Manali - Delhi. Sunil Kapoor gave us excellent service which includes his next to new 4WD in immaculate condition and all hotels were top class. Coming from Australia, we were bit nervous in start but when we met Sunil, we had full trust and all went very positive. Sunil gave us perfect instructions and everything was according to plan.I would very highly recommend Sunil's Unwind Outdoor to any tour you are planning to go with.His company's website unwindoutdoor dot com is very good with so much information that you don't have to go anywhere else.Thank you Sunil and your team for our one of the best experience in life you have provided us. Looking forward to send many people through your company.Cheers.

    thumb Jignesh C Patel
    7/19/2016

    5 star review  It was a great 10 day itinerary for Chandigarh-Manali-Leh-Kargil-Srinagar stretch. We soaked in the beauty of Kashmir and the Himalayas all along the way. Great tips on must-to-visit places. Sunil gave us meticulous instructions on vehicle, trip preparation and risk management. The lake boat stay at Srinagar was a pleasant surprise to top it off! Those who visit Leh should try to read and know more about the place before visiting. Plan your "Hall of Fame" visit at Leh early, if you don't do this preparation 😉 ! Had a great Leh Ladakh experience with friends. Loads of thoughts and memories along the way. Thanks to Unwind Outdoor for a well managed tour!

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    6/29/2016
  • 5 star review  We had a wonderful 8 day trip from Srinagar--> Kargil --> Leh --> Nubra --> Pangong --> Leh arranged by Sunil. All the arrangements were executed flawlessly. Sunil managed a few last minute changes which is well appreciated. I had no hesitation in suggesting Sunil to folks we met during our vacation and colleagues in office.This is a "must do" trip one should experience in their lifetime.

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    5/27/2016

    5 star review  I would like to thank Mr.Sunil for arranging our Chopta trip and the bonus of Auli.Our family had a great experience living one with nature.We were well taken care of and pampered by great food.Looking forward to other trips that Unwind Outdoor has to offer.

    thumb Sangeeta Sangameswaran
    4/05/2016

    5 star review  We are sure if it was not with Unwind Outdoor, our trip might not have happened. Living overseas we have been planning this journey for some time but never got the right contact until we came across Sunil. I was able to relive the memories of my first encounter with this landscape 19 years ago. The whole journey from Jammu to Leh and beyond is a weird concoction of feelings. There is chaos, isolation, excitement, calm, mood swings(due to AMS).....nevertheless this is one place which every Indian must have on their bucket list. Having said that I would also emphasize on preparing yourself for this trip. It is not just any other hill station but this can give you an experience of a different world altogether (If you were stuck like we did at 18000 feet high K-top for almost 5 hours due to an avalanche. Mind you.. recommended stay is not more than 20-25 minutes). So prepare well and be safe. Sunil will be there to look after you. Good on you Sunil. You will hear from us again...soon.

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    7/20/2015

  1. Hi this was very helpful…Planning a trip in Sep end…Is there a permit required while coming back from Spiti via Rohtang pass/ Manali

    • Hello Manav,

      No permit is required for Indian Nationals, when coming from Spiti to Manali via Rohtang ..

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