I know many of you want to go somewhere which is beautiful yet not overly crowded and touristy. But does such a place exist?
Being living in a country as diverse and incredible as India, finding such a place can be difficult but not impossible. Take my word for it.
The tribal district of Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh is least commercialized, and proffers the nature in its most beautiful forms – lush green valleys, snow clad peaks, cold desert mountains, bare escarpments, and deathly deep gorges. The scenic Sangla Valley, picturesque Chitkul, dry and devoid Nako, and slopes of Kalpa offer amazing view of the majestic Himalayas from early morning to late evening. The massive snow clad ranges that provide a regal dignity to the scene are dominated by the peak of Kinner Kailash. Monotony of this congruous beauty is seldom broken by human interventions; but yes once you are crossed the mammoth built across the Sutlej. The dam has halted her pristine flow and left her dry downstream. A seven day trip is ideal to explore and appreciate this fascinating land. Keep reading to find out how.
Day 1 – From Shimla to Kalpa
The breathtaking journey to this beautiful yet secluded land begins from Shimla. Start off from Shimla early morning as you will have to cover the distance of 267 km in day in the mountainous road. The drive is partially bumpy but the gorgeous scenery all around is so absorbing that you will forget everything else. On the way, you will cross the cities of Rampur and Recong Peo. Rampur can be a good option for a lunch break. The drive is really awesome but, between Jeori and Karchham, the Sutlej is left to nothing due to the construction of Karchham Wangtu Hydropower Project on the river. By the evening, you will be in Kalpa. The long drive that seems little bouncy initially will eventually culminate in a splendid destination.
Day 2 – Stay at Kalpa
Surrounded by mighty snow-capped peaks, Kalpa is a beautiful village of Kinnaur situated at the altitude of 2,578 meters. Across the River Sutlej faces the majestic mountains of the Kinner Kailash range. The peaks offer spectacular sights early in the morning as the rising sun kisses them with crimson and golden light. There are plenty to do in and around this small village – visit the monastery and the temple, stroll along the narrow road early morning, and check out how locals grow famous Kinnauri apples. Village Roghi approximately three km from Kalpa is great place to visit. Unlike other places, the suicide point in Roghi really looks like the one! While standing on the cliff you will feel dizzy. There is a temple dedicated to the Goddess Chandika Devi in Kothi near Recong Peo; so if you are interested you may visit Kothi as well. Set against a backdrop of mountains and graves of the deodar the temple has an unusual architectural style and fine sculpture. An exquisite gold image of goddess is enshrined in sanctum. Though if you are interested in following off the beaten track, there is much for you. There are great treks possible around Kalpa.
Day 3 & Day 4 – Nako
Be prepared for more on the third as you will head to Nako. But make sure to stuff yourself with heavy breakfast as you will find absolutely nothing along 117 km long stretch. And just to remind you, the river Sutlej and the river Spiti will be your only fellow travelers, though moving in the opposite direction. At places you may spot Army and Boarder Road Organisation Vehicles, odd villagers, trucks ferrying apples, and lizards. As you move ahead, the landscapes will get dry and become progressively more desolate and devoid of vegetation. Nonetheless, you will find this five hour drive a little more adventurous as the road moves along the steep, elongated gorges and deadly curves. Every turn gives you the feeling of a miraculous escape!
By the late afternoon you will be in Nako—a small village where exposed rocks and bare hillsides are a mosaic of different hues; where against the azure sky, the starkness of the scenery stands out clear and proud, and the pure, rarefied atmosphere makes for a fitting accompaniment.
Nako is situated an altitude of 3662 meters; therefore, in the evening, give some time to your body to acclimatize. Take rest, drink tea or coffee whatever you like, and listen to the music of roaring wind at night! Nako is the largest village in the Hangrang Valley. On the fourth day, visit Buddhist temples and monastery in the village and spend the day on the lakefront. You may also visit Malling, a 24×7 landslide zone. It’s beautiful village and there are good places around to see.
Day 5 – From Nako to Chitkul
After spending a beautiful day in Nako, set out to Chitkul, the last Indian village before the Chinese border. En route to Chitkul, spend time at the beautiful Sangla. In Sangla, visit the Kamru Fort. Its tower like architecture is a resemblance of the Bhima Kali complex in Sarahan. Farther from Sangla, the valley opens up and is full of wooded slopes as far as Chitkul. The beauty of the road from Sangla to Chitkul is beyond imagination.
Chitkul is the place where road ends; and you stand right on the foot of snow clad peaks. This place is totally out-of-this-world – green fields, imposing snow capped peaks, and turquoise blue water of the winding Baspa – the place has something a je ne sais quoi about it. Inhabited by over 800 villagers, Chitkul is a delight for nature lovers. The village has a Buddhist and a Hindu temple. The Buddhist temple has an image of the Shakyamuni Buddha. Chitkul is also the last point of the famous Kinner Kailash Parikrama. After spending 6 days travelling through Kinnaur and staying at lovely places, on day 7, head back to Shimla.
What to Carry
Carry light woolens if you are travelling anytime between May and September. Heavy woollens are highly recommended for rest of the months. Carry your own blanket. You may need it at places. Hire a 4×4 wheel drive from Shimla. Make sure the driver knows all destinations and way. If you are planning to go in your own car ensure that it has a good ground clearance and you are comfortable with off-road driving. Wherever you find a petrol/diesel pump, get your car tank refilled. There are few petrol/diesel pumps in the district and often they are out of petrol/diesel stock.
Where to Stay
There are hotels at all locations with fairly good facilities. But they are basic. Try to book HPTDC Hotel in Kalpa. It offers great view of the Kinnaur Kailash. Kinner Camp in Nako offers tented accommodation. PWD Guest House would be a safe bet in Chitkul.