The valley of Lahaul is situated to the south of Ladakh. The meaning of Lahaul is south country. It comes from the word La-yul. To the south of Lahaul lies the beas valley of kullu and manali, across the Rohtang pass. Its western boundries touch the Pangi belt of Distt. Chamba. To the north across Shingola and Baralacha are the valleys of Zanskar and Ladakh, and spiti towards the east , across Kumzum La.As one desends from the Rohtang pass, at 16 kms comes Gramphu, the junction of the roads from Keylong and spiti. As Lahaul lies across the Rohtang pass it is desolate and barren. You can feel the contrast in the landscape when ever you travel across the Rohtang pass. The green landscapes of the Kullu valley gives way to long chains of barren snow capped mountains with small distant settlements. Chandra and Bhagha are the main valleys of the area. You can see green patches along it and all major settlements are at the banks of these valleys.
GRAMPHU (3200 m)
The main element of any journey you take across the Rohtang is the element of contrast the landscapes offer you. From the greens of the Beas Valley to the desolate barren mountains of Lahaul and spit, it is a journey of great experiences. The land beyond is a vast canvas of inhabited mountain chains with a few small distant villages. As you descend from the Rohtang pass, afer 16 kms , there is a place called Gramphu. The road descends though many Hair Curves and the condition of the road is bad at places. There are wonderful and breathtaking views of the Lahaul Himalayas all along. Gramphu has a G.R.E.F Base and a solitary Dhabha, which is operational off and on. A road turns right from Gramphoo, which takes you to you to Spiti across the 4551 Mtrs Kunzum La . Kunzum pass is 61 kms from here and the distance to Kaza is 137 kms. For going to Keylong, take the road which goes straight towards Koksar. Keylong is 50 kms from here.
The stations when you turn right on the road from Gramphu which goes towards Chandrataal are
CHATTRU (11,650 ft.)
Chattru is 17 kms from gramphoo. The road from Chattru towards spiti is one bumpy ride. the road is bad at places. the landscape is barren, and the only company is the noise of the river Chandra. Chattru sure does surpise you after such a barren and desolate drive. The thing one notices after reaching Chattru is the greenery. The green patch in the otherwise barren landscape is welcome sight. There are a couple of Dhabas here which are operational from the time Rohtang pass opens till late September. This place also has a P.W.D Rest house, and if you are lucky enough you will find the Chowkidar here. This place is also the ending point of the trek across the Hampta pass from starts from Manali.
This is a small hamlet on a narrow meadow, with a few houses belonging to the road maintainence department. There is also a solitary Dhaba here. A cup of tea here is a big relaxant, as you drive on the bumpy and rocky track towards Batal. There is also a P.W.D Rest house here, but it is in a very bad shape. Over the years this Rest house has been a great refuge for travelers who venture into this valley without any proper knowledge of the terrain.
BATAL (3960 m)
Batal is 100 kms from Manali. Batal lies at the base of Kunzum pass on the Lahaul side. It is a road head camp for many peaks on the Chandrabhagha ranges.Batal is a very important Station, because of its proximity to Chandertaal. Chandertaal link road bifurcates 3 kms from Batal. Batal also is a road head camp for peaks like CB 11, CB 13, CB16, CB 20, CB 22 AND CB 32 etc. It has as couple of Dhabhas and some dormitory type bedding is available here.
The destinations on the Manli –Leh highway which goes straight on from Gramphu are
KOKSAR (3140 m)
Koskar is the first settlement toward Lahaul. This place is 21 kms from Rohtang pass along the Chandra river. The settlement is both on the right and left bank. This place gets very cold during the winter months. There is a checkpost here where you have to enter your names , vehicle no etc. Foriegners have to show their passports. Koksar has a few dhabhas, and tented accommodation.
SISSU (3130 m)
Sissu is situated on the right bank of river Chandra. This is a very beautiful place , with a magneficient view of the Lord gyapeng peak. There is also a temple dedicated for it, in Sissu. Sissu has lots of greenery and lot of vegetable farming is done here. There is also a lake type area, which is a resting area for migratory birds like Siberian ducks, and wild geese. A few hanging glaciers and waterfalls can be seen from Sissu. This place indeed is a dream destination.
GONDLA (3160 m)
Gondla has one of the most enchanting views of the snow field and glaciers across the river. There is a old fort here , owned by the thakur family, which dates back to 1700 A.D.
Tandi is located on the confluence of the River Chandra and bhagha. It is118 kms from Manali, and 7 kms from the Distt. Headquarters of Keylong. Tandi gains importance as , it is the only petrol pump station after manali till Karu, which is just short of Leh. Another village above the confluence is Gushal which looks extermely beautiful when seen from Tupchiling or Kargha.
KEYLONG ( 3156 m)
Keylong is sthe Distt. Headquaters of Lahaul and spiti. It is 125 kms from Manali, and 75 kms from Rohtang pass. There are some tourist facilities including a Circuit House, a Public Works Department (PWD) Rest House, a Sainik (Army) Rest House, a Tourist Bungalow, and a number of small hotels. Keylong has ample amount of Motor mechanics etc. Sights near Keylong include the Kardang, Shasur, and Tayul monasteries, all within a few kilometres of
53 Kms from Keylong is a the village of Udaipur. The road cuts just short of Keylong. Udaipur gets it name from Raja Udai singh of Chamba. It is the most forested and green area of Lahaul. Lots of plantation crops have come up in this area. This is along the famous Mayar valley, Mayar valley has some beautiful trekking and short days hiking routes. Udai pur is famous for Trilokinath temple, which is visited by both Buddists and Hindus. There is also the Markula devi temple , more famous for its wood carvings.
JISPA ( 3200 m)
Jispa is 25 kms from Keylong. One place worth spending an evening on the Manali Leh highway. It is located on the right bank of the Bhaga river. Jispa is just awesome. It has a few hotels, a few camp sites.The mountaineering institute Manali has a sub centre here.
DARCHA (3360 m )
Darcha is 32 kms fro Keylong, and 7 kms from Jispa. Darcha happen to be the last village in Himachal , on the Manali Leh highway. Darcha has a few dhabhas, and some makeshift type accommodation. All passing vehicles must stop at Darcha’s police checkpoint for passport checks .Darcha is situated at the junction of Yotche Nullah and the Zangskar chhu which takes off from the Shinkun La. Both the nullahs meet with the main river Bhaga at this place. The valley broadens out from Darcha. The altitude of Darcha makes it an ideal basecamp for acclimatization. Darcha is the jumping-off point for treks to Padum over three mountian passes Shinkun La, Baralacha La and Phirtse La, and mountaineering expeditions to Leh and peaks of Chandra Bhaga series. However, no tourist bungalow or rest house facilities are available on either side of the nullahs. Darcha is the last village where one can see sparse growth of trees. You will see not even a single tree on either side of the highway beyond Darcha. Landscapes start looking desolate and absolutely barren.
BARALACHA (4890 m)
Baralacha is 75 kms from Keylong. As you move towards Leh on the Manali Leh Highway, you reach a station named ZingZingbar. this is a small place at the foot of the pass. There are a few make shift shacks here, which provide food and shelter to traveler on this route. After ZingZingbar the road starts to ascend and then if you are driving in the summer months, you will encounter huge snow walls on both sides of the road. It is advisable to cross this pass early because the water from the melting snow flows on the road, and this can get very heavy. Now there is a bridge over the stream ,so there is no reason to worry. Then after negotiating a few hairpin bends in the end you reach the top. This is where three important ranges of the Indian Himalayas meet.It is a high plateau where three different mountain ranges – Pir Panjal, Zanskar and the Great Himalayas – meet at an altitude above 16,000 feet. This top is a big ground, with some refuge shelters around. There are a few trekking routes from this place, the most famous one being , the one which reaches Chandertaal. Baralacha is also the source of river Bhaga. There is also a lake here which is called Suraj taal or Vishal taal. Baralacha is a photographers paradise, with snow covered mountain, a pristine lake and dark blue skies.
SARCHU ( 4300 m)
Sarchu is 230 kms from Manal, and 40 kms from Baralacha. Beyond Sarchu , the state boundry of Jammu and Kashmir begins. It is the most beautiful and enchanting camping site enroute Ladakh. The landscape comprises of broad plain barren land, along a river. It’s a heaven for star watchers at night. Despite being an isolated destination, it offers a lot of accommodation in tented camp sites. These camps provide luxurious stays even at such a high altitude.