The first thing which comes to your mind is Fluttering prayer flags, barren yellow golden landscape, and huge blue lakes.This region is referred as the land of high mountain passes. There is an old saying in Ladakhi “who comes to Ladakh is either the best of friends or the worst of enemies”.
Ladakh is located in the eastern part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is mostly barren, because it falls in the rain shadow area. This makes it a popular travel destination, because you have longer climbing and trekking seasons. The barren mountains have different colours varying from tingy purple to golden yellow. The well maintained roads across high passes and though broad valleys makes it a ideal destination for leisure road journies as well. The vibes and the exorbitant charm this place has cannot be explained in words, you simply have to be there to feel it.
The elevation of the region varies from 2760 metres in Kargil to 7672 metres on the summit of Saser Kangri. The average elevation of most destinations on the road is 3500 to 4500 metres. The passes are much higher with the highest being at Khardungla at 5359 metres being the highest.
It’s huge blue water lakes, enchanting landscapes, long tranquil treks, and high challenging mountain summits makes Ladakh a great paradise for travellers around the world. The clean dry air, magnificent scenery and the warm hospitality of the people makes Ladakh a truly special place.
Ladakh is assessable by air route from Delhi only. There are daily 3 flights of Go, Jet and Air India. There are two routes by road to reach Ladakh.
. Manali to Leh via keylong and Sarchu, which is 475 kms.
.Srinagar to Leh via Drass and Kargil, which is 434 kms.
Status of the roads as on for now, May 4th 2017, Srinagar Leh is closed via Jozilla pass, and Rohtang pass is also closed if you want to take the Manali- leh highway. All flights to Leh are operating.
SHEY.( 3415 Mtrs)
On the Manali Leh highway 15 kilometres from Leh is the Shey Palace and Monastery. The Palace is in ruins now, but the archaeological survey of India has started preserving this site. The palace has many large room, the windows of which offer excellent views of the Ladakh landscape. The protruding balconies and windows are excellent for taking photographs, as you can see the entire valley upto the Stok mountains. There is also a small hillock which is joined to the palace. Climbing up this hillock can be a lot of fun. The area near Shey is full of many small and big Chortens, making it Ladakhs biggest Chortens field.
The monastery at Shey has the main Shakyamuni Buddha covering 3 floors and is 39 feet tall. Every wall is painted with one image or the other, the most prominent being of the 16 saints who attained nirvana. The top of the monastery commands panoramic view of the surrounding areas.
THIKSEY.( 3600 Mtrs)
The Thiksey monastery lies 20 kilometres east of Leh, and is famous because of it’s resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa. This monastery is one of the most photographed monastery in Ladakh, as it can be seen from the main highway. It is the largest Gompa in central Ladakh. It is a 12 storey complex and has many statues, thanktas and stupas. There is also a 49 feet high statue of of the future Buddha “Maitra”.
This monastery is also famous for it’s morning prayers which has a gathering of more than 50 monks. Visitors are welcomed to be a part of this ceremony . There is a hotel by the name of “Chamba” run by the monastery, and a restaurant here. The monastery also has a few guest rooms.
LEH. (3500 Metres).
View of Leh Town/Pic : Rajat Jamwal
Leh is 475 kms from Manali, and 434 kms from Srinagar. This is a base for mostly all journeys, treks, and expeditions across Ladakh. it is the biggest market centre in all ladakh. There are shops catering to all things a traveller requires. There are numerous hotels, guest houses and restaurants here. This is a travellers paradise.
Leh is located on the right bank of the river Indus. On the south are the Stok mountains, and towards the north fall the ladakh ranges.
You can see travellers of all kinds, some getting ready for climbing expeditions, some cyclist and bikers, or some trekkers packing their last bag of essentials, before venturing into the inhabited mountains. Leh has all types of hotels from luxury to budget, guest houses, and govt. guest houses. it has all kinds of restaurants, and travel cafes catering to all kinds of people from different countries. The market in Leh is also famous for Buddhist artefacts and handwoven rugs, carpets and shawls.
The main places to visit once in Leh are.
Shanti Stupa (4200 mtrs)
It’s a 15 minute climb from Changspa to the top of a high rocky ridge. There is a stunningly beautiful view of Leh town and the Stok mountains from here. This has become the primary reason for Shanti stupa to become a popular travellers destination, apart from it’s religious significance. There is also a drivable road to the stupa. it was built in 1991 by a Japanese monk to promote world peace.
The palace commands a imposing view from the Leh town. This structure is built of stones, wood and mud. It was the royal residence of the king Singe Namgyal, and was built in the 17th century. It is abandoned and desolate now, as the royal family shifted to the nearby village of Stok. it still posesses it’s mystical and grand old charm. You can have a wonderful view of the Leh town and the snow covered Stok mountains from here. There is also a museum in the palace , which showcases some of the jewellery, ornaments, thanks, crowns, and ceremonial dresses.
The timings to visit the palace is from 7.00 A.M to 10.00 A.M
4.00 P.M to 6.00 P.M
When visiting the palace, it is advisable to carry a torchlight, because there are holes in the floor and the staircases are dark.
The war museum or the hall of fame is a stupa shaped structure constructed and maintained by the Indian Army. It is dedicated to the brave soldiers who lost their lives during Indo Pak wars. it has two storeys, the first having names and photographs of the soldiers who lost their lives. The second floor has war artefacts and enemy captured weapons.
Namgyal Tsemo Gompa
This is one magnificent landmark, one cannot miss in the Leh landscape especially in the sunset hours. It is situated on a hillock just near to the Leh Palace. The monastery offers a breathtaking view of the Leh town and the snow capped Stok and Zanskar ranges. The monastery was built by king Tashi Namgyal in 1430 AD, who was a vivid follower of Buddhism. He built the monastery above his palace as a mark of respect. There is a gold idol of Maitra Buddha( Future Buddha), which is 3 storeys high. There is also a statue of Avalokitesvara and Manjushi which are one storey high.
The monastery is a favourite with photographers, as the light changes, you get different colours on the hillock, which gets to deep golden yellow as the sun sets.
This place has an exuberant charm. This place has that traveller vibes which gives a feeling of youth and freshness, that makes it a complete travellers corner in Leh. It has lots of travel offices,Internet cafes, Garden cafes, travel cafes catering to menus for people from all over the world. You will find lots of budget hotels offering clean accommodation here. During summers months this place is flooded with travellers from various countries. During these months a lots of meditation and yoga camps and classes keep happening here. It is in these cafes that plans for expeditions or for a trek across the Markha valley is made. It’s a world of it’s own. It is exotic to the locals and foreigners alike. There is something here for Indians and foreigners both. You have cafes which cater to foreign menus, and there are shops which have Indian things ,so there is a nice blend of cultures. Behind Chanspa you can go for short walks as there is less of traffic. There is an Ice skating ring here, which is bustling with activity once the ice forms during winter months. There is an Ice hockey tournament held here annually.
Call it optical illusion or something else. Imagine the movement of your vehicle uphill with the ignition turned off and the gear at neutral. This magic can be experienced on the highway connecting Srinagar with Leh at a place called magnetic hill which is 30 kilometres away from Leh. The elevation of the place is approx 14000 feet. There is also a big yellow coloured billboard which helps the travellers to recognise the site. There is also a marking on the road where you park your vehicle and then turn off the ignition. You can experience your vehicle moving up the slope. at the speed of 20 kms/hr.
A short drive away from the Leh bazar, or you can even walk this short distance. Unlike many forts which were constructed on steep hillocks, Zorawar fort is located on flat land. This fort was constructed by the famous High altitude warrior Gen. Zorawar singh in 1936. It was built for his brave Dogra soldiers who stood by him during his conquest. The fort is made up of local material like dried mud and wood. It has a area of about 27 acre. Each corners of he fort have towers which were used for observation.
There is a mosque, and a temple inside the fort.
Stok is beautiful village situated 14 kilometres southwest of Leh across the Indus River at the base of the Stok mountains. Stok is visible from almost all parts of Leh. Stok village is popular among travellers as it serves as a gateway for several famous treks and trails like the Stok Kangri expedition and the Markha valley trek. There are also various day hikes towards the Stok mountains from here.
Stok was also the erstwhile seat of the Ladakhi royal family. Descendants of the royal family still reside in this palace. The palace was built in the year 1825 by the king Tsespal Tondup Namgyal, who was the most recent ruler of Ladakh. The view from the palace is fabulous, as you can see the surrounding barley fields and white washed farm houses.There is also a Museum here. The museum has artefacts from the royal households, and ancient copper currency. There are also costumes, seals, prayer material, turquoise, old jewellery and traditional attires of the Royal family.
There are also thankhas that portray the life story and teachings of lord Buddha.
Timings for visiting Stok Palace
8.00 A.M to 1.00 P.M
2.00 P.M to 6.00 P.M.
Rooms are also available in the palace for guests.
This place is famous for it’s monastery. It is situated 18 kilometres from Leh on the Srinagar highway. The spituk gompa was founded in the 11th century by a monk Od-De. The gompa was named Spituk which means exemplary. The monastery is known for it’s 21 exquisite statues of Tara, the consort of Avlokitesvara all representing her different manifestations. There is a Mahakaal temple on the hill top containing the shrine of Vajrabhairava. It is only in January, that the face of Vajrabhairava is unveiled during the annual festival.
The famous Spituk festival called Gustor is held every year on the 17th and 19th day of the 11th month of the Bodhi calendar.
It is mostly pronounced as Hamis in Ladakh. It is located 40 kms south east of the Leh town. In 1672 AD, the king Singhe Nampur Gyalva established the famous Hemis monastery. A colourful festival called Hemis Tsechu festival is celebrated here in july. Hemis has very limited pucca accomodation, most of the accomodation is tented. Some houses offer home stays.
HEMIS NATIONAL PARK
It is the biggest national parks in India covering an area of over 4400 sq kms. It was founded in the year 1981 in the catchment areas of Rumbak and Markha. This area has the highest snow leopard concentration in the world. The park has about 200 snow leopards. There are also many varieties of himalayan wild sheep and deers like Argali( Great Himalayan sheep), Bharal( Blue Sheep), and Shapu( ladakhi Urial). All these are in the food chain of the snow leopard. It is also home to the Asiatic Ibex, Tibetian Wolf and the red Himalayan fox. It is also a bird watcher’s dream destination. You can spot the Golden eagle, Lammergeier, Himalayan Griffon, Tibetian Snowfinch, Himalayan Snowcock, Robin Accentor and many more high altitude birds.
This region falls in the rain shadow region of the Himalayas, so it has very less precipitation. It can get very cold in winters and the temperatures can go as low as -25.
In the months of October and March snow leopard treks are organised so that people can get a chance to spot this magnificent creature in it’s natural habitat.
In the National park no hotels are available. There are 6 villages which come under the National Park.
These villages offer humble Homestay facilities. The monastery at Hemis also has some rooms for visitors.
Entry Fee and Permit.
The permit is available at the office of the Wildlife warden or the D.C Office at Leh. The fee is Rs. 20 for domestic and Rs 100 for Foreign nationals.
While driving towards Leh on the NH 1 highway, 107 kilometres from Kargil and 127 kms short of Leh is a picturesque village of Lamaruyu. The very first sight of a monastery perched on top of a golden yellow hillock, with the snow clad mountain backdrop is breathtaking. It is one of the most ancient monastery of Ladakh. it is said to have been built in the 10th century.
The monastery has Dukhang, a big assembly hall, Gonkhang, the temple and a residential area for monks. Walls of the monastery are painted with colourful images of buddhist deities. There is an annual festival by the name of Yuru Kabgyat is a major attraction for travellers. The major highlight of the festival is the mask dance by the monks. There is also a ritual in which effigies are burnt, which symbolises the destruction of ego in every individual. Lamayuru is also called “Tharpa Ling” which means the “Place of freedom.
Lamayuru is also famous for its moon like landscape. The best view is from the window of the monastery towards the East, and from the road 1/2 kilometres towards Kargil.
Lamayuru has a few budget type hotels, and a few home stays inside the village. The accommodation is humble, and you have the meals with the family in the dining area. There are a few small eating house which offer simple Indian meals and tibetan food.
Elevation 18380 feet
Imagine what it feels to hear your engine roar at 18000 feet. It’s a like a fantasy for bikers and motorist alike. Khardungla is 39 kms from the town of Leh, on the road which connects the Indus valley with the Shyok or the Nubra valley. The first 24 kilometres of the road till the South Pullu checkpoint are paved. From here till the North Pullu which lies 15 kms across Khardungla is primarily loose rock, mud and small patches of snow melts. You can encounter snow on the road once you are on top of the pass. Due to strategic importance of the road, this is mostly clear of any snow almost all through the year.
Khardungla has a billboard which claims it to be the highest motorable road in the world. This place has a cafeteria and a Souvenir shop run by the Indian army. You can have Tea, coffee,biscuits and instant noodles at reasonable prices. The Souvenir shop has T Shirts, cups, Key Chains, Plates etc which have “The world’s highest motor able road “ embedded on them.
If you feel some kind of nausea or mild sickness here, it’s because of the altitude. In such case please descend quickly. There is a Medical infirmary here run by the Army, which has all first aid facilities including Supplementary oxygen.
The land which is known for it’s white sand dunes, flowers, orchards, and double humped Bactrian camel. It was originally called Ldumra which means valley of flowers.
Nubra lies North east across the Khardungla pass from the town of Leh. The road is open through out the year. There is also another route over the Wari La from Sakti connecting the road to Nubra via Agham. The main town of Nubra valley named Diskit is 150 kilometres from Leh.
The view of the valley is picturesque and breathtaking. Nubra valley is high altitude cold desert which has very rare precipitation and scanty vegetation except along the river beds. The main river of the valley is Shyok. The Shyok river meets the Siachen River to form a broad valley on whose one side are the Ladakh ranges and other sides are the Karakoram mountains.
A journey across the high Khardungla, and then a descend towards North Pullu and ultimately into the wide valley makes your heart pound with excitement and thrill. The drive goes along the Shyok River and then you reach Diskit. Diskit is the headquarters of Nubra, so it more like an overgrown village which has a lot of government offices. There are ample hotels, guest houses, Home stays and tented campsites here.
Hundar sand dunes, Nubra Valley, Ladakh
Hunder is located 7 kilometres from Diskit. Till 2010 tourists were allowed to come as far as this place. The areas beyond this place was closed for tourism. Hunder is a quite little village with small houses, which are scattered. There is also ample amount of greenery near the village, because of the water of the streams. The thing which is interesting is the area huge area of white sand, which gives an impression of a desert. The formation of ripples on the small dunes with snow capped mountains in the horizon is amazing. On one side steep cliffy mountains, then white sand area, and a river flowing nearby just takes your breath away. Here you can find the rare double humped bactrian camel. You can take a ride on it for a decent sum.
Sumur is a quite and peaceful village in the Nubra valley. It has wonderful green and yellow mustard fields. It has the famous Samstemling Gompa, which was founded by Lama Tsultrin Nima about 150 years ago. Sumar also has it’s own sand dunes and camel rides. The road to Sumur bifurcates just before Diskit. It is 23 kilometres off the main road. There is also the village of Tegar near Sumur.
If you continue on the road ahead you will reach Panamik, which is surrounded by snow capped mountains. The scenic beauty and it’s hot sulphur springs attracts lots of visitors every year. Panamik is 22 kilometres from Sumur.
Turtuk is a tiny hamlet at the end of the road before the Line of control. It is the extreme corner of the Indian border, so it is a challenge reaching here. The road is treacherous at places after Hunder , and there are a lot of landslide areas. There are a lot of sensitive army bases here so permits were not issued before 2010. Now you get permits from the D.C. office in Leh to go there. The drive is along the River Shyok, and there are views of snow capped mountains all along the way. But once you reach Turtuk, you will forget the fatigue and you will know why this place is termed as heaven on earth. Turtuk is basically a muslim dominated village unlike buddhist dominated Ladakh. This village is also known for its wonderful, and welcoming people. It is also at a lower elevation than most habited Nubra. Unlike the barren landscape of Ladakh, Turtuk is full of green pastures. Apples, Apricots, Tomatoes, Cauliflowers and cabbages are grown in plenty. This place has a few humble home stays. Turtuk is still culturally intact and there are still very few visitors. In all Turtuk is a travellers paradise, here the smiles of the people are more sweeter than the apricots.
Karu is a place you cannot miss while on your journeys in Ladakh. While driving from Manali you get the first signs of habited Ladakh once you reach Karu. Karu is 430 kms from Manali, and 45 kms from Leh. From here a road bifurcates towards pangong lake across the mighty Changla pass. Karu has a petrol station now. There are a few dhabas and guest houses here. There is a check post here enroute Changla, where your passes are verified.
A view of Changla top with the Chang La baba temple.
Changla is 75 kilometres from Leh. At an elevation of 5360 metres ,it is the third highest motor able road assessable to ordinary civilians. The Changla is the gateway to the Changthang Eco zone, which is home to variety of flora and fauna. The road to Changla cuts from Karu. The road is of special significance to travellers because it comes enroute Pang gong tso. As you get on to of the pass you can hear the prayer flags fluttering in the cold air. There is a temple dedicated to Changla baba here. There is a cafeteria, which is run by the indian army, which offer a wonderful cup of free black tea. You can get a plate of hot steaming momos for a decent sum. There is also a souvenir shop here which sells mementos like T shirts, coffee cups, key chains etc. There is also a Medical centre which offers first aid and has supplementary oxygen. Chang La has a good amount of snow in winters, but the road remains clear although the year.
PANG GONG TSO
Pang gong is a beautiful lake located 150 kilometres from Leh across the Chang La. It is one of the most beautiful of places in the Himalayas, that will give you a experience of a life time. It is indeed bliss to be here. At an elevation of 4350 metres above sea level it is one of the largest high altitude lakes in the world.
It is 134 kilometres long and 5 kilometres at it’s widest. It’s total area is 604 sq kms. The lakes carries on for about 45 kilometres inside the Indian territory before it turns to the left. after that its chinese territory. The Line of control passes through this lake. It is an amazing fact that this lake is land locked. The dark blue waters, with the backdrop of golden yellow mountains reflecting in it, makes one of the most picturesque sites on the planet. The water is clear, but salty and cannot be used for drinking purposes. The villages that are on the banks of the lake are
Spangmik has more staying options than Lukang. There are quite a few home stay options, and a few luxury lodges. There are ample tented camps resorts. Maan has a luxury camping site along with a few budget camping sites. Maan is 9 kilometres from Spangmik. Merek has a few homestay comparatively. There are many camping and tented accommodation available at Pang gong lake from Lukung village (first settlement at the lake) till Spangmik ranging from Rs 500 to Rs. 3500 depending upon services like attached toilets, hot water, meals, and luxury inside the camp or tent. Man and Merek have limited accommodation. Merek has a green grassy belt next to the lake and is sparsely habited making it a popular destination for traveller who want to spend some time by themselves.
The sunset at the lake is more beautiful than the sunrise, but that does not stop you from having a morning walk along the lake. The Lake acts as a breeding ground for a variety of birds including a number of migratory birds. During summers the Bar headed goose and ducks are commonly seen here. The region around the lake supports a number of wild life species mainly the Kiang and Marmot.
There are a lot of spots where you can sit and relax near the lake. The ones till spangmik draw lots of visitors during summers, but as you go towards Merek, you get more solitary places. There is also a place where waves are formed like in the sea which is near Merek.
In winters the Pang gong lake freezes. It is a bliss to see this lake in frozen state. You can even walk on the lake. The temperatures can drop to -30 in winters making camping here very difficult near the lake, so you have to return to Leh or stay at Tangste.
Chushul is a viilage located between Nyoma and Pangong Tso at an elevation of 4360 metres in the Changthang province. This area is relatively less travelled. There is a vast stretch of dry barren valley before one reaches Chushul. One comes across this village, while taking the road journey from Tso Moriri towards Panggong Tso. You need a special permit to take this route and you can by stopped anytime by the Indian Army. This is because Chushul is one of the 4 official BPM (Border Personnel Meeting ) points between the Indian and the chinese army, when ever tension arises on the border. Regular interactions take place here to defuse face off situations.
Chushul has a Govt rest house.
Chushul is also remembered for its significance during the Indo China war of 1962. Nearby is the Famous Rezang La, famous for it’s War memorial of the 114 brave soldiers of the C Company of 13th Kumaon regiment , who fought till their last on November. 18,1962. The Company was headed by Maj. Shaitan Singh, whose supreme courage, leadership, and exemplary devotion to duty inspired his company to fight almost to the last man. On the memorial there are the words, which reads :
“How can a man die better than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his Fathers and the temple of his Gods,
To the sacred memory of the Heroes of Rezang La,
114 Martyrs of 13 Kumaon who fought to the last man.
Last round, Against Hordes of Chinese on 18 November 1962.
Built by All Ranks of 13th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment”
Nyoma is a beautiful village on the banks of River Indus in the Changthang region at an elevation of 4235 metres. . It is 23 kilometres from Mahe bridge. The village has a forest rest house and a few home stays. Nyoma is a destination popular with traveller going to Hanle or Tso Moriri.
Hanle 150 kilometres from Mahe bridge. It is approx. 275 kms from leh. You have to cross Nyoma and then take the bridge to the right from Loma. You can reach Hanle from Panggong Lake via Tsage La. Hanle does not fall in a first time traveller’s priority list. How ever for travellers searching for solitude, and quietness and for those who want to explore into the scenic landscape and have ample time, this is the place. Changthang valley has some amazing landscapes, which one can experience while travelling from Mahe bridge towards Hanle.
Hanle also as an Astronomical Observatory, which at an elevation of 4500 metres is one of the highest in the world. The valley is ideally suited for astronomy. The Valley is wide and there is very less precipitation. The diameter of the telescope is about 2 metres. The observatory is operated from Bengaluru by the Indian institute of Astrophysics.
Hanle has a monastery which has it’s own unique charm. The monastery dates back to the 16th century. It belongs to the “Red Hat” Tibetan Drukpa Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism.
The small hamlets of Khuldo and Punguk are located near Hanle. Due to it’s proximity to the sensitive border with China, You have to take special Inner line permits for visiting this place. The permits are available at D.C office, Leh.
This is nature’s one of the most exquisite creation in the western Himalayas. . Tso moriri is a beautiful high altitude lake in the changtang area of eastern Ladakh. It is secluded in the Rushpu valley about 245 kilometres from Leh. At an altitude of 4522 mtrs above sea level , it is approx. 23 kilometres long and 4 to 7.5 Kilometres wide. The heritage village of Korzok overlooks the lake. The thing that makes this lake special, is that this lake is a High altitude wetland conservation site, which is governed by the Ramsay convention held in Iran. This means that this is a protected site e.i. you cannot camp and pitch your tents near the lake. This has helped in maintaining the 🙂 natural beauty around this picturesque lake . Infact before Korzok the area near to the lake is fenced ,because there are many migratory bird here. Once you cross Korzok you can go anywhere near the lake.
It’s a delight to be here.There are lesser amount of tourists here as compared to Pangong lake. This place has more to explore. One can just leave his car behind at Korzok and go for a long stroll towards the lake or up the small hillocks , from where you can have a mesmerising view of the ink blue waters. The lake has a back drop of barren mountains which rise up to 6000 metres,the summits of which are covered with snow.
This place has lots of camps which have tent accommodation. There are a few guest houses and home stays. Make sure to select one which gives you a clear view of the lake. Get up early in the morning and take a walk or just be near the lake. It’s just living the moment. You have to be there to feel it. Tso Moriri is open from Arpil till late October. The entire lake freezes in winters.
There are various routes to reach Tso moriri. The most prominent being from Leh towards Karu, then taking the road to Mahe bridge and eventually reaching Korzok.This is 245 kms. There is a another route which bifercates from the more plains through the villages of Tsokar and Puga. This takes around 5 hrs.There is another exiting route which starts from the village of Merek beside the Pangong lake through Chushul. This one is the road less taken. It passes through desolate places ,close to the Indo Chinese border. The famous Renzengla falls on this route. This route requires special Inner Line Permit, which can be had from the D.C Office Leh.
Elevation 4100 mtrs.
This location is of strategic importance for travellers venturing into the Changthang region . Mahe bridge is 140 kms from Leh, and 100 kms from Karu. Tso morari is 80 kms from here. From here if you cross over the bridge , you will reach Sumdo, 12 kms from here, which is enroute Tso Moriri . If you go straight , the road goes to Hanle. Hanle is about 150 KMs from Mahe and the road runs through Nyoma and then Loma, where you need to pass the bridge on right that takes you to Hanle further 50 Kms ahead of Loma. Permits are checked and your names and vehicle no is entered here.
Kargil is located at an elevation of 2676 metres, on the banks of the Indus River. It is the second biggest town in Ladakh after Leh. It is 205 Km from Srinagar on NH 1D. It is 246 Km from Leh. Kargil fascinates you with its purple to yellow golden mountains surrounding it. The town is relatively greener than the otherwise barren Ladakh terrain. If you have to travel the 434 Km Srinagar Leh route, Kargil is an ideal place to take a nights halt before taking the second leg of the journey. It is a quite little town with a market which caters to all types of requirements. It is also a base station if you want to venture into the beautiful Suru Valley for trekking and mountaineering activities.
People in Kargil are of mixed Dard and Tibetan descent. Most are Baltis. The inhabitants of Kargil were adherents of Tibetan Buddhism until the 14th-15th centuries when Muslim missionaries began to proselytise to the local people. Today, 90% of Kargil’s population are Shia Muslim, 5% Sunni and 5% Tibetan Buddhist. The architecture of older mosques in Kargil combines Tibetan and Mughal styles.
Suru Valley is situated at an average elevation of 3000 metres. It is one of the most scenic and beautiful valleys in the Ladakh region of the Himalayas. This valley is on every adventure seekers travel list, because of the road journey it offers along the breathtaking valley, and the expeditions to the 7000 sister peaks of Nun and Kun. The River Suru, which is a tributary of the River Indus flows through this valley.
The Suru valley is the gateway to Zanskar from Kargil Side. The road which goes through the Suru valley, continues into the Zanskar region across the Penzi La(14000 feet) pass till Padum.
The area is is habited by the Tibetian Dard community, who are Muslims. They converted into Islam during the 15th century. The people are extremely hard working and agriculture is the primary occupation of the people.
The main Hamlets in the valley are
Sankoo is located at an altitude of 9524 feet, 42 kilometres from Kargil.It is one of the most developed village in the Suru valley. The village has lots of greenery in and around it. There is a dense plantation of Mycarea, Willows and Poplars. The Valley is bowl shaped, and the greenery actually looks like clustered in one place. The vegetation is primarily because of a steam tributary of the Suru River flowing through this village. You will get very basic accommodation in Sankoo in the form of simple Home stays and guest houses. There is a JK Tourism Bunglow. There are a few eating houses which offer simple indian and tibetan dishes.
Panikhar is 68 kilometers from Kargil. Panikhar is also a lush green valley. It is a scenic village with breathtaking views of snow covered mountain peaks and glaciers. The Road crosses Suru River over a bridge and after passing a few villages again crosses the river. Immediately after crossing the river one can see the Nun Kun Massif in the distance. All the activity connected with climbing Nun and Kun take place in Panikhar. The traditional route to Nun and Kun is from a place called Tangole, which is just beyond Panikhar. The road is paved till Panikar. The next major Village is Rangdum which is 62 Kilometre from here. The condition of the road starts to worsen and the paved road becomes a dirt track. Panikar has a J.K tourism bungalow, and a few guest houses.
Rangdum is located at an elevation of 3657 metres, 120 kilometres from kargil in the Suru valley. It is surrounded by snow capped mountains on one side, and rocky cliffs on the other side. It is a small Hamlet with barely a dozen houses. There are a few home stays and guest houses here. There is also a J.K Tourism Bungalow and a P.W.D rest house here. If you want to visit Padam across the Penzi La, this is the perfect place for a night halt. Rangdum is also famous for it’s 18th century Random Monastery.
Penzi La is the 14000 feet high mountain pass, which connects the Suru valley with the Zanskar Valley. There is a dirt and rock filled road up to the pass. The ascend is moderate. Two small lakes called Statso-lang and tso Kartse Khar is just before Penzi La. Penzi La is open from June to October. Padam lies 00 kilometres from here. Padam is the main town of Zanskar region. Padam is more famous for being the last destination of the world famous Chadar trek.
Dharamshala ( Altitude 1457 m)
Dharamshala is located at the low spurs of the Dhauladhar ranges. This makes the location of Dharamshala very unique. The sheer feeling of gazing at huge mountain range with snowy tops from a place which has very temperate features is amazing. The snow line is nearer than any other destination India. This place become more famous because of the weekend treks it offers for beginners. Even in summers you can reach a snow point very easily. The treks are for beginers but the view which is offered from these treks is breathtaking. The upper reaches are forested with trees of Oak and conifers. Dharamshala is 245 Kms from Chandigarh and 239 Kms from Shimla.
Mcleodganj is 10 Kms from Dhramshala by road. This is another travelers hub in Himachal Pradesh like Manali. Mcleodganj is located just at the base of the Mighty Dhauladhar mountains and is a escapade for numerous trek across these mountains. It is also known as little Lhasa as it is the Tibetian capital in exile, which is based downhill at Gangchen Kyishong. It is also the official residence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. This place has a vast Tibetean population.The tibetian people started settling in mcleodganj since 1959, ever since The Dalai Lama Tibet. This place has the vibes of a perfect travelers hangout. The main square is always full of people, and there are two parellel market roads which are flooded with place cafes, Tibetian shops, resteraunts and hotels catering to needs of people all over the world. Mcleod ganj has been centre of Buddhist culture and learning over the years.
Mcleod Ganj has many ancient temples, monasteries and monuments. Tsuglagkhang is the main shrine here with idols of Avalokitesvara, Padmasambhava and Sakyamuni Buddha. When you are in Mcleodganj you get the ambience of a Buddhist place. The practices and lifestyle here are mostly related to Buddism. There are a lot of Indians here, and both communities live in perfect harmony with each other. There are paintings and stories of Tibetan leaders at the Tsuglagkhang complex. There are various Stupas, temples, monasteries to be visited here. If all that you want is peace and relaxation, you can just roam in this calm town and visit the bookshops, cafés and museums.
You can also visit the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts. They hold a ten- day festival of theatrics, music and dance in May. Mcleod Ganj basically thrives on tourism. It is also famous for the Buddhist handicrafts, garments and Thangkas.
The Namgyal Monastery, abode of the Dalai Lama, is the most important attraction here for Buddhists. St. John in the Wilderness is an Anglican church built in the neo-gothic style and is definitely worth a visit. The Naam Art Gallery is also a good place to visit. The Gallery is open from 10 am to 7 pm and remains closed on Mondays.
Palampur (1840 m)
29 kms from Dharamshala, lies the green hill station of Palampur. More famous for its tea gardens, and abundant streams. Several trekking routes lead out of Palampur, particularly over the Dhauladhar Mountains towards the districts of Chamba and Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. Some important treks are over the Sanghar pass to Bharmaur via Holi, the Thamsar Pass (4,747 mts) from Billing to Manali via Bara Bhangal, over the Jalsu pass from Baijnath to Bharmaur,. A four-day trek will lead the traveler to Holi, via Waru La. 35 Kms from Palampur is Billing, near Bir, Himachal Pradesh, Bir, an important centre for the adventure sport of paragliding. Paraglider pilots often land near Palampur after cross-country flights starting from Billing.
Bir is a small village in near Palampur. Bir along with Billing is a place which is famous for Aerosports. That is Hang gliding and Para Gliding both. The take off point is called Bir, which has an altitude of 2290 mts and Billing is the landing site ,which is 1400 mts. The weather plays a very important role in Paragliding. On a perfect day flights upto 100 Kms can be easily done. the world record for the longest flight of 132.5 Kms was set here in 1992. All this area is surrounded by low hills. Bir is 35 kms from Palampur, and billing is 14 kms from Bir.
Bir is famous for its Tibetan colony which is at the west end of the ground, and there are various Buddhist monasteries which are worth visiting here. There are a few guesthouses and resorts in Bir. In the mid nineteenth century, the 3rd Neten Chokling , an incarnate lama of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, came to Bir with his family and with the help foriegn aid bought about 200 acres of land. There he established a Tibetean settlement with around 300 families. He also build a Neten monastery here. There is another Monastery by the name of Pema Ewam Chogar Gyurme Ling.
Nearby is the village of Ghornala, where you can find a couple of Homestays. There is a Deer Park Institute, and a Dharmalaya Institute which is a NGO devoted to Education. Dharmalaya hosts work retreats and meditation retreats, providing opportunities for long-term volunteers and meditation students to do karma yoga (mindful service work with an unselfish, altruistic intention) for various charitable projects to benefit the local community and the natural environment. Programmes include earthen building, vernacular eco-architecture, green job skills training for local villagers, organic farming, and a tree-planting project. Visitors must contact them via the website before visiting, as they are sometimes closed to visitors for silent retreats and special programmes.
Bir and Billing have over the years become a favourite camping ground for adventure seeker from all over the world. A lot of camp sites have come up here.
Altitude 996 mts.
Thye town of Chamba , is located on a flat land, on the right bank of the river Ravi between the Dhauladhars and the Zanskar Ranges.
Places to visit.
Akhand Chandi palace.
Bhuri Singh meausem
Chamunda devi temple
Hari rai temple
Laxmi Narayan temple
Sui mata temple
Altitude 7000 feet
Bharmaur is located 65 kms from Chamba . It is the legendry land of the gaddis. Bharmaur is famous for its old archeological remains, mainly the temples. All these temples stand on a level area called the chaurasi. The name chaurasi falls after 84 siddhas ,who are believed to have metidated in Bharmaur 1000 years ago. The oldest temple in the complex are those of Laxmi Devi and Ganesha. Bharmaur also has a regional centre of Mountaineering.
Altitude 2036 mts
This hill station is 00 kms from Pathankot.It is spread over 5 hills. It has a beautiful forest of Pines, deodars, oaks, and Rhododendron. It has a magnificient view of Chamba valley and mighty dhauladhars ranges, with its awe
inspiring snow covered peaks filling an entire horizon. Subash Bawali and Panjpullia are places to visit here. Other places to visit are Klatop, Bara pathar and Bakrota hills.
Altitude 6400 feet.
23 kms from Dalhousie . It has lush green meadows, which are surrounded byn pine and cedar forests. The landscape of Khajjiar is a delight for photographers.. It is also reffered as mini switzerland. There is a small lake in the center. Khajjiar has many hotels, and camping spots.
Altitude 4080 mts
Manimahesh is 26 kms from Bharmaur. It is 13 kms by road till a place called Hadsar , and you have to walk the next 13 kms. The middle point of the trek is at a place called Dhancho. This lake is located at the base of Kailash Manimahesh peak. There is a pilgrimage yatra to this lake every year. The best time to visit is mid May to late September.
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.
Lahaul and spiti are two remote Himalayan valleys of Himachal Pradesh, lying in the indo Tibet border. They are strange ,exiting and adventurous . Extremely different and beautiful valleys like none other in the entire Himalayas . Lahaul has more uniform line of mountains, and thus it has massive glaciers. There is little monsoons in both these valleys, this enables climbers and trekkers to enjoy long and unbroken in perectual sunshine to explore the wilderness and grandeur of the inner Himalayas. Since the Valley is situated in the rain shadow area, North of the Pir Panjal ranges, the weather remains pleasant and comfortable during summers, that is May to Sep.
If you are new to this area, it is first important to understand the geographical location of this place. Lahaul and spiti are entirely different valleys, separated by the Chandrabhaga ranges, and connected by the kunzum pass (4550 mts). The headquaters of spiti is in Kaza, and of Lahaul is in Keylong.
Spiti is assessable from Kinnaur side too, the main advantage of this route is that there are no high passes to be crossed along this route. Lahaul is the region beyond Rohtang pass.To reach Lahaul ,you have to cross the pass at Rohtang. The road which comes from Spiti, across the Kunzum pass meets at Grampoo, 15 kms from Rohtang. If you turn right from Grampoo , you start your journey towards Spiti across Kunzum pass.
The winters are cold and the temperatures plummet to below minus. In December, there are first sign of snow fall, which continue till March. By the end of march the temperatures begain to rise, but there is still an element of chill in the mornings and evenings. The spring season is relatively warm, but you still need woollens. The first signs of summer come in late April. The warmth is because of the Sun. Once if you in shady area you will feel the cold. Areas above 3500 m reamin cold through out. That is if you paln to cross kunzum even in the thick of summers, you still need a jacket. once it is sunny, the months of may to September are warm. In the last week of September, the evenings and mornings start getting cold and the days are pleasant.
Only BSNL Network is present in the valley. Most mountain shadow areas are devoid of network.
The High villages and Passes are cold even during summers, so keep a warm garment handy.
Road blocks can cause delays, so start the day early especially if you have to cross Kunzam.
There is a Petrol Pump at Kaza, before that there is one at Powari in Kinnaur. The next one is across the kunzam at Tandi (Lahaul) which is 183 kms, and at Manali across Rohtang which is 200 Kms from here.
All of Spiti Valley is electrified, excepting for the camps at Chandrataal and Batal, When visiting Chandrataal make sur to take you batteries fully charged.
Avoid going into the rivers for clicking photographs, and dont venture into the high mountains without a proper guide.
Foreign Nationals visiting the protected areas of Spiti Valley and Kinnaur Valley are required to get the inner line permits or ILP. Domestic (Indian) tourist do not require any permits. If you are Indian, then just carry a valid photo ID proof of your nationality to be on safe side.The permit is valid for a period of 2 weeks. After you get the permits, make 5-6 copies of it as you will be required to submit them at police checkposts mainly at Jangi and Sumdo.
Spiti Road Journey 2016 by Himalayan Diaries
TABO (3050 m)
Tabo is located at altitude of 3050 mtrs, and like most villages on the spiti river, is situated on the right bank. The main attraction here is a monastery,which dates back to 996 b.c. making it the oldest functional monestry in the world.It is also known as Chos Khor.This is amazingly quite place, with arid mountains of scree rocks on either sides.The temple complex consists of nine temples. Tabo has a few hotels ,guest houses and a monestry
Pin valley is the second biggest river in Spiti. There is a bridge from a place Called Attargu, 10 Kms from Schling. Pin valley is an extremely beautiful place ,marked with numerous glaciers, and breathtaking landscapes. The first of the Pin valley villages is Gulling.2 kms above Gulling is Kungri, where there is the 600 years old Ugyen Sanag Choling Gompa. Then comes Sagnam. Then comes the village of Mud. Mud is the last village of the Pin valley. Mud has a few guest houses, and home stays. Mud is also the road head camp for the famous Pin Parvati trek.
DHANKAR (3854 m)
If you ever imagined about a fairytale location of a monastery high up in the Himalayas, over looking a dark blue valley and snow capped mountain , then this is the place. Dankar monestry is a small fort like structure built into a mountain. This is an ideal setting for any Himalayan monastery. Dhankar is small village 7 kms from Shichiling. The road goes winding up a hill. There are numerous views of the monastery from the way. Dhankar is a small village with a few houses. Now many have turned into homestays. There is also a Hotel there just opposite the monastery.
The Monastery is built out of local material like Mud and stones. the roofs are made in pure Spiti style which has mud plastered on top of planks of wood. There are various small prayer rooms in the monastery and there are open windows so that there is no total darkness. There are various wall paintings that date back to the 15th Century. There is a statue of Vairochana Buddha in one of the rooms. There are also numerous Thankhas that are now in bad shape. This Monastery was built using traditional materials like mud, stone and timber. It is dark inside and small steps are leading from one place to another. To prevent complete darkness, there are small windows in the walls, from where sunlight approaches. There are many prayer hall inside the monastery. In one hall,there is a statue of Vairochana (Dhayan Buddha) consisting of 4 figures seated back to back in addition to various crumbling thangkas.The monastery also contains a series of fifteenth-century wall paintings. Over the years this Monastery has been subject to erosion by wind and the rain. This Monastery has been declared as one of the worlds most endangered sites in the world. The view from top of the monastery of the Spiti river and the snow capped mountains is amazing. In all a travellers and a photographers paradise.
KAZA (3600 m)
Situated onthe right bank of the spiti river. This is the biggest settlement in the ntire Spiti valley. It is the headquater of Spiti. It is the biggest settlement in the entire spiti valley and is the administrative Headquater of Spiti Area. This is a high altitude or cold desert having close similarities to the neighbouring Tibet and Ladakh regions in terms of terrain, climate and the Buddhist culture.Kaza is the base for journeys towards Kunzum and the world famous Chandertaal lake.
KEY MONASTERY (4166 m)
At A distance of 7 kms from Kaza at an altitude of 4166 mts is the famous Key monestry. It is situated on a slope overlooking the spiti river. When you drive towards Kunzam on the Highway, After some time there is a bridge on the river, if you take this bridge you go towards kunzum, and if you go right you take the road towards Key. It is built on top of a small hillock mounted on a bigger hill. Its firts look gives it a appearence of a fort. It has three floors, and houses about 150 monks.The monestry belongs to the gelupa sect of buddhism. The top terrace of the monestry has a wonderful view of the green farms and the blue waters of the spiti river. The monastery has some really beautiful scriptures and paintings of Lord Buddha and other gods. The Key gompa is also famous for its priceless collection of ancient thangkas, including Tibetan silk thangkas upto 800 years old and frescoes depicting the life of Padmasambhava. There is a Key Village that comes just before the Key monastery. There is a guest house at Key monastery where you can stay for the night. The views from this vantage point are just breathtaking from where you can also view the land as far as across the Spiti River.
KIBBER (4205 M), GETTE (4270), TASHIGANG (4450 m)
If you continue on the same road ahead of Key Monastery, 16 kms from Kaza is the village of Kibber. All these villages are the highest settlements in the world. Kiber is well connected by road. Infact it has a bus service. It is also the road head camp for the world famous Parangla trek, which is the traditional trade route between Sipiti and Ladakh. The drive from Key monastery towards Kibber is filled with amazing views of Key and the spiti valley. You can see the entire landscape as far as the Kunzum mountains. During the drive you will get the enchanting vibes of the Buddhist culture of Spiti. The villages have fluttering prayer flags everywhere, and are mostly made of Stones, Mud and Wood. The roofs are made of tree planks laid up against each other in a line and then it is plastered with Mud. Mostly the top of the house is for keeping Fodder and wood. From Kibber there a dirt track which takes you to Gette Village and beyond that Tashigang is final village where one can drive from Kaza on jeep trail.
After a mile from Kaza , you take a bridge , which takes you to the right bank of the spiti river. 10 Kms from Kaza is the village of Rangrik. This is a calm and quite place , if you want to be far away from the hustle and bustle of Kaza. Rangrik has a few hotels and guest houses. There are plenty of short walks and treks from this place. You can just walk down to the spiti river and enjoy its calmness.
LOSAR (4085 m)
Losar is 56 kms from Kaza, and is the last habitable place , in the spiti valley towards Kunzum pass. It has a few guest houses, and a P.W.D. Rest house. Losar also gains importance , because of its proximity with Chandertaal, the moon lake. Kumzum pass is 20 kms from here.
KUMZAM PASS (4551 m)
Kunzum , 76 kms from Kaza, is the pass which connects the Spiti and the Lahaul valleys. It is one of the most enchanting and mystical places in the Himalayas . It has a temple and a buddist Gompa in the same compound. From the top one can view the majestic Chandra Bhaga ranges, and the Bara shigri glacier. There is also a trekking route from Kunzum to Chandertaal . The trek is about 10 kms. After crossing Kunzum you enter Lahaul. Lahaual can also be assessed from Manali through the Rohtang pass , on the manali Leh Highway. The Road to kunzum bisects at Gramphoo.
If you turn left , while coming from Manali, you take the path to Kaza, across the Kunzum pass.
CHANDRATAAL (4300 m)
One of the most popular destinations for travelers, especially trekkers. The feeling of being one with the universe is here. Chandertaal is 17 kms from Batal. It is assessable by foot or a jeep. There is also a trekking route from Kunzum Pass, which is 8 kms. The road to Chandertaal cuts 3 kms from Batal towards Kunzum. Chanderataal gets its name from the moon lake. The river Chandra originates from here.
BARA SHIGRI GLACIER
Altitude:- The glacier is above 3,950 m altitude and extends beyond 4,570 mts.
Bara shigri means big glacier in literal Lahaul language. The snout of this glacier almost ends near the Chandra river. This glacier is a days walk from Batal, across the river Chandra. It is 11 kms long . The glacier is so heavily covered with surface moraine that ice is not visible for long stretches except along the crevices and in the ablation areas. Many mountaineers have trekked it for the sake of hobby or geographical exploration.
Stations towards spiti from Rohtang/Gramphoo from Kunzam pass please check Lahaulhttp://www.himalayandiaries.com/portfolio-type/lahaul/
The mystical land of beautiful picturesque valleys and vibrant culture. Known for its lush green pine nut forests, vast apple plantations, thrill creating roads and high snow capped mountains, Kinnaur is like a fairy tale destination for travellers from all over the world. The contrast in landscape varies as you travel along , from the lush green Sangla valley to the desolate yellow golden Hangrang Valley. The altitude here ranges from 2200 metres to 6800 metres. Due to this elevation this place has a pleasant climate when rest of the country has soaring temperatures. It has very cold winter months especially from October end till last weeks of April. The lower part comprising of the Sutlej and the Baspa valleys receive monsoon rains. The upper region is mostly in the rain shadow and is arid like the neighbouring Spiti and Tibet.
Kinnaur is famous for its Handicrafts and Handlooms especially Pasmina products. There is trademark Kinnaur shawl, which is famous worldwide. The place has ample amount of dry fruits like Chulli (Dried Apricots), Chilgoza( Pine nuts), Kagazi Almond and walnuts to name a few. Make sure to try some of these exotic varieties on your stay here.
There are many activities for a true adventure seeker here. This region has some amazing mountaineering and trekking routes. There are a few 6000 metres plus peaks for climbing like Manerang and Leo Purgyal. There are numerous treks here which go as far as the valleys of Uttrakhand. you can make some amazing road trips here which go along the Baspa, Sutlej and Spiti valleys.
The people are simple hardworking and friendly. The men and women wear a green Bushari cap, which can be seen everywhere. Kinnaur has very rich and vibrant culture and traditions. You mostly will find people in their traditional attires. If you ever get lucky to witness any Kinnauri ceremony you are one lucky person. If you can handle it try a few glasses of Angoori a local drink made out of grapes.
PERMITS FOR FORIEGNERS
Foreign nationals need a permit to visit this place.
Foreign Nationals visiting the protected areas of Spiti Valley and Kinnaur Valley are required to get the inner line permits or ILP. Domestic (Indian) tourist do not require any permits. If you are Indian, then just carry a valid photo ID proof of your nationality to be on safe side.The permit is valid for a period of 2 weeks. After you get the permits, make 5-6 copies of it as you will be required to submit them at police checkposts mainly at Jangi and Sumdo.There are check points at Akpa and Sumdoo.
The permits are available at
M.H.A. Govt of Himachal Pradesh
Commissioner Tourism, Himachal Pradesh
S.D.M. Recong Peo.
KALPA (2580 m)
Situated at an elevation of 2759 metres, 260 kms from Shimla. It is famous for the majestic view it offers of the snow clad mountains, the most prominent of them being the famous kinner kailash peak.This peak is said to be the winter abode of Lord Shiva. It is a spectacular view early in the morning as the sun touches the snowy peaks with crimson and gold light. As the day progresses the light of the sun falls on the peak from different angles and the colour of the peak keeps changing. Kalpa has a landscape full of apple plantations surrounded by forest of Pine, Deodar and Pine Nuts. This place is a perfect destination for travellers looking for spending some time in wilderness and solitude. There are a lot of short hikes and walks here going though apple trees and lush green forests.
RECONG PEO ( 2670 m)
Altitude 2670 mts. Situated 245 kms from Shimla, 15 kms short of Kalpa. This is the District Headquaters of Kinnaur. There is always a hustle bustle of visitors here, because this place has ample accommodation catering to different budget groups. Reckong Peo has a big market which is a main shopping point for the nearby villages. There is a circuit house, A P.W.D Rest house, and a forest Rest house here. Permits for foreigners can be arranged here at the D.C. Office. . This palce also acts as a base for further journeys up the Sutlej and spiti valleys.
This is an ancient village in kalpa tehsil. It is also known as Koshtampi. There is Chandika temple here dedicated to Goddess Shuwang. There is a big ark, where there is a image in gold.
SANGLA ( 2621 m)
Altitude 2621 mts. Sangla is 220 kms from Shimla. From a place Karcham ,you have to follow the Baspa valley. It is 17 kms from Karcham. It is situated on the right bank of Baspa. There is a view of the village Kamru, and Raldang peaks from here. The forest scenery all around and eternal snow peaks are picturesque. Sangla is the first and the biggest of the villages in the Baspa valley. Hotel and tented accommodation is available here.
RAKCHUM ( 3050 m)
One of those villages which just comes out from a fairy tale. It is indeed a place where heaven meets earth. It has enchanting landscapes which cast a mersmerising spell on you. Raksham is 10 kms ahead of Sangla. Sangla has over the years become more commercialised and overcrowded. Rackchum offers a traveler with the element of ultimate vibrant charm of the mountains. The village is located on the base of the majestic Shoshilla peak. The mountains above the village are rocky and steep and are mostly have a cover of snow and mist. The mountains across the river are covered with lush green forests, and there are snow feild areas in between. the tops of the mountains are snow covered almost all through the year. There are varoius escapades from Rakchum into the mountains and the forests, the best being a short walk across the river toward Chitkul. The landscape at Rakchum is different from all Kinnaur, as it is a perfect combination of Huge white boulders blending with the lush green forests. In the recent yeras this place has become a popular destination for mountaineers, trekkers, movie makers and leisure seekers from all over the world. There is something for every one here, you can just venture into the forests for short walks along the river or relax at a hotel gazing at the wonderful mountains.
Rakchum has a few staying options, and there’s one hotel near the gate when you are about to enter the village, with athe view of the river by the name of Rupin view. The primary occupation of the people here is apple cultivation. There are also trees of Apricots and Almonds. The valley is also known for its cultivation of Organic Buck wheat locally known as Ogra. If you happen to find some can get some in the market, do carry it home with you, as it has exellent nutritional and medicinal qualities.
CHITKUL (3450 m)
A village where the Road virtually ends. Located at an altitude of 3450 metres on the right bank of the Baspa valley. This is the last inhabited village on the Indo Tibetan border. This place is 25 km uphill from Sangla, and 10 kms from Rackchum. Chitkul is a place out of a fairy tale. There are fields of peas and potatoes, a blue gushing river nearby, The hills towards the left bank have lush green forest, with their tops being white with snow cover. The Village is clustered and small. Mostly the houses are made of locally sourced material like mud, wood and stones and have their roofs made of slate. Above the village lie high cliffy mountains with steep gradient.
The landscape beyond the village spreads far and wide. You can gaze into the high mountain summits, which are always covered with snow. The melts of these mountains are the source of River Baspa. You have to walk beyond the village as there is no road. The walk along the River is an amazing experience. The bluish white Baspa flows in its full fury and makes a roaring sound. Nagasti is a 1.5 Km walk from Chitkul and is the last point till where a civilian can go towards the Border. The area is manned by the ITBP.
The people are simple, kind and hardworking. The hard terrain and long snowy winters have made them hard and tough over the years. There is a temple dedicated to Goddess Mathi Devi in the centre of the village.This temple is a perfect example of the Sutlej style of temple architecture. The temple is built of wood and stones and is believed to be about 500 years old. According to a legend the Devi settled here after a long and arduous journey. The people of the village prospered a great deal after she settled here. There is also a temple dedicated to a deity which is related to Badrinath in Uttrakhand. Every year the deity is taken on foot across the high passes to Badrinath.
The place is still left out as far as basic infrastructure is concerned. There are no medical facilities available here. The nearest emergency and medical facilities are at Sangla. There is no ATM. There is a P.W.D rest house, and a few hotels here.
There are various trekking routes from here across to Uttarakhand like Lamkhaga pass trek which finishes in Harshil, and Borosu Pass trek which ends up in Har Ki Dun Valley. The Kinner Kailash Parikrama Yatra across the 4950 mtrs high Charang pass ends here.
You can spend a day at Chitkul strolling down the Baspa, or going across the river to venture into the forest. In all, it’s a wonderful place to spend a few days in solitude and serenity.
The village is surrounded by high mountains on three sides. The valley opens towards the Satluj river. Threre is a old fort there, believed to have been built by the Pandavas. The Fort has a square structure , on a small hill overlooking the river.
Altitude (3150 MTS).
A road cuts between Taranda and Wangtoo, on the left bank of Rriver Satluj.The scenery is enchanting, and the climate is pleasant during the summers.There are thick forest and rocky slopes. Wonderful place for short walks and hikes.
NAKO (3663 m)
It is the highest village in the Hangrang valley of Kinnaur. Behind it are the two huge mountains Leo and Rio Purgyal. It has one of the most breath taking views from everywhere. A lake is formed from the waters of the high mountains. It is the road head base for The Pargyal mountain expeditions. It is also the starting of the trek to Tashigang village, where an image is said to grow hair.
Altitude (3048 mts)
It Is the last viilage towards Tibet, from the side where Satluj enters India. It offers a magnificient view of the Rio Purgyal mountain, the highest peak of Himachal.
Altitude (3058 mts)
Lies on the bank of spiti river. More famous for its delicious apples. Home to the temles of the deities Gyablo, Dabla, and Yulsa.
KULLU and MANALI
This land is known as the Valley of the Gods. This beautiful valley is located in the Beas river basin and is bestowed with a rich and vibrant culture.This is a favorite hill stations with traveler from all over the world, because of the amazing landscapes and escapades. Scenic meadows and snow-clad mountains, towering Deodar jungles, rivers and apple orchards have attracted several feature filmmakers too. Most of the trekking trails and great road journies are start beyond the Rohtang Pass in the valleys of Spiti, Lahaul, Zanskar and Ladakh. The hospitality of its people, their distinctive lifestyle and rich culture have enthralled travelers for aeons. The pleasent weather during the summer months, and the ambience provided by the glacial melting waters of the Beas makes it a perfect summer sojourn in the Himalayas.The Dev Sanskriti of the valley blends faith, mythology and history to create and sustain a unique bond between the mundane and the divine.
The weather is cold in winters and you have have definite snow in December. The months of January and Februrary are cold. The temperature sets to warm up by spring. Spring is a welcome sight here becuase of the flowers in the numerous Apple orchards in the valley. Summers are warm and pleasant. In late June the monsoons set in and by late august you again have a pleasant climate here. the Autums are pleasant during the day but the evening go cold. Its always handy to keep a warm garment ready, you never know when yu need it.
Almost all cell phones funtion in the main Valley. Across the Rohtang pass only BSNL functions that too in major stations. In the Parvati valley its also all BSNL.
Please don’t venture into the high mountains or go on a trekking route without a proper guide. Don’t go near the rivers or streams for photographs. Alway hire a guide who has been certified by the mountaineering institute.
The passes and permits for going across the Rohtang pass are available at the S.D.M office at Manali. Foreign Nationals visiting the protected areas of Spiti Valley and Lahaul areas are required to get the inner line permits or ILP. Indians need a permit to go across Rohtang Pass. The permit is valid for a period of 2 weeks. After you get the permits, make 5-6 copies of it as you will be required to submit them at various police checkposts .
Manali has a few Petrol pumps, and the next pump is at Tandi after crossing the Rohtang pass which is 120 Kms away.
The Road till Manali is open though out the year. Beyond Manali The Road across the Rohtang pass is closed for traffic after October till June. Presently as on 28th April 2016, Rohtang is closed for vehicular traffic.
KULLU TOWN ( 1279 m)
The town of Kullu is located on the Right bank of the river Beas. It is the district Head Quarters for the District, which makes It is the commercial and cultural centre of the area. It is 263 km from Chandigarh and 235 km from Shimla. Kullu is famous for its handicrafts especially Shawls and Woollens. Kullu gains international importance during the days of Dussehra, as this festival is celebrated here bigger then any where else. Around 350 deites gather here on the Dussehra ground to take part in this huge festival.
Raghunath temple was built in 1650, and is dedicated to lord Raghunath. This temple comes into focus during the world famous Dussera festival of Kullu. The chariot of lord Raghunath is taken out amid hundreds of local deities.The chief deity of Kullu is Raghunath Ji. Dussehra festival is held in its name. The idol is same which was used by Lord Rama himself at the time of Ashwamegh Yagya and was brought from Tretnath temple of Ayodhya. The temple was constructed i with a mixed look of Pahari and Pyramidal style. Everyday puja (aarti) is held for five times. Round the year, 45 festivals are held.
BIJLI MAHADEV TEMPLE (2450 m)
Bijli Mahadev temple is located near the town of kullu at a hilltop, above the town. It is 3 kms walk, amid a forest of pine and cedar. The temple is located at an elevation of 2450 m. The name of the hill where Bijli Mahadev temple is situated is called Mathan and is surrounded by Parbati, Garsa, Bhunter and Kullu valleys. There is a small village just down below the temple, and the name of the village is also called Bijli Mahadev. People in this village take care of the maintenance aspects of the temple. The temple is dedicated to lord Shiva. Legend has it, that the linga in the temple was broken up into pieces when lightning struck it. The priest joins all the peices together again. According to locals this phenomenon occurs once every year.The Shiva ling (Mahadev) will be joined together and installed in a special occasion using a locally made adhesive using butter etc. One can witness the charred part (especially on the walls) inside the temple which is due to the flames resulted during lightning. Devotees can give offerings in the Hundi only kept inside the temple. view from the top is breathtaking. In winters, the surrounding slopes are used for snowboarding and skiing.
To go to Bijli Mahadev, from kullu, you first have to reach Ramshilla, which is very nearby (approx. 1Kms) and cross the bridge which is for crossing Beas river to go towards Bhunter or Manikaran. Just after crossing the bridge, One road goes towards Bhuntar and you have to take the road to the left (instead of going straight which goes towards Bhuntar) and then you will find a walking trail which climbs up the hill. There is also from Ramshilla a motorable road is which goes till about 20 Kms till Chansari village. . From this place 3-4 Kms trekking to be done to reach Bijli Mahadev.
RAFTING AT BEAS RIVER
There is something for sending your adreniline rushing up your spine. The River Beas offers one of the best basic level rafting. Veas does not have very big rapids, but you can be sure that this place is safe. The best spot for rafting is Bawali. Bawali is 8 km from Kullu. The best stretch is the 8 kms between Bawali and Kullu. The blue gushing waters of the Beas, and the enchanting green valley view make a wonderful combination as you venture down the river.
NAGGAR ( 1851 m)
Nagar is situated on the left bank of river Beas at an altitude of 1851m, Naggar – an ancient town commands extensive views, especially to the North West of the valley. Naggar was the former capital of Kullu. It was founded by Raja Visudhpal and continued as a headquarters of the State until the capital was transferred to Sultanpur (Kullu) by Jagat Singh in 1460 A.D. Today this ancient and beautiful Palace is a popular tourist spot. There is also an Art gallery here which was home to a Russian artist Roerich.
No other place givesyou such a long clear view of the Beas valley. The road to Naggar bifurcates from Patlikhul. The road goes curving through a lush green coniferous forest. Naggar is 35 km from Bhuntar, 25 km from Kullu, and 20 km from Manali.
ROERICH ART GALLERY
The reputed Russian artist Nicholas Roerich decided to make Naggar his home, after he came to India. The house he resided in, is now transformed into a museum to showcase his art work. There are many rare paintings and works of art here. The house has a magnificent view of the Kullu valley. It is open to visitors.
This medieval castle is now converted into a HPTDC Hotel. The castle overlooks the Kullu valley. The castle is made in the western Himalayas pahari style. It is a unique stone and wood mansion, which was once the abode of the Raja of Kullu.
GREAT HIMALAYAN NATIONAL PARK
Looking at the increasing importance of bio-diversity conservation across the globe and due to presence of a rich biodiversity in these parts of the Himalayas the GHNP, which has been accredited with the status of the prestigious, UNESCOs World Heritage Site has an area of 1200 sq km, and altitude ranging from 1500 m to 6000 m, the Great Himalayan National Park lies in the Kullu region. The area comprising the watershed areas of Tirthan, Jiwa and Sainj makes the GHNP. The area is characterized by high alpine peaks, alpine meadows and riverine forests. The park includes the upper mountain glacial and snow meltwater sources of several rivers, and the catchments of water supplies that are vital to millions of downstream users. The GHNP protects the monsoon-affected forests and alpine meadows of the Himalayan front ranges. It is part of the Himalaya biodiversity hotspot and includes twenty-five forest types along with a rich assemblage of fauna species, several of which are threatened. This gives the park outstanding significance for biodiversity conservation. coniferous forests, emerald meadows, strewn with exotic fauna, soaring snow peaks, and pristine glaciers, make up the great park.
This park is home to about 215 species of birds with pheasants like the Western Tragopan, Cheer, Monal, Koklash and Kaleej along with other birds like the white throated tit & the Lammergeyer. GHNP is home to the elusive snow leopard along with other mammals like the Himalayan brown & black bears, Common Leopard, blue sheep, musk and barking deer, ghoral , serrow & the omnipresent red fox. It’s also a repository of rare medicinal herb like Jatamansi, Kadoo, Patish and the recently found Nag Chatri along with hundreds more which continue to be the main source of income for local population.
MANALI ( 2050 M)
It has become of of the most popular holiday destinations in the Himalayas. Manali is a beautiful town located on the banks of river Beas. The greenish blue waters of the river, the valley dotted with apple and deodar trees with snow covered mountain tops at the backdrop makes this a wonderful sight to behold. This place offers great escapades into the mountains, and is the gateway to the valleys of Lahaul, Spiti and Ladakh. Due to this it has become a backpackers delight. There are so many trekking routes from here. Many peaks climbing expeditions are flagged of from here. All those going across the Rohtang into Lahaul Spiti or Ladakh, gather here, for logistic support. Bike riders come over from all parts of the country to take the enduring Road route from Manali to Leh. The town has its own charm and it keeps giving your amazing vibes. even if you are not a great adventure seeker there is so much for you here. you can just spend the day lazing around in a cafe of take a short walk around the town.
Manali gets its name from the great sage Manu. The original name of Manali was Manualya, the abode of the sage Manu. There is a temple in Manali dedicated to the great sage. Manali is 270 km from Shimla, and 308 km from Chandigarh.
HADIMBA MATA TEMPLE
This is an ancient cave temple dedicated to Hadimbi devi, sister of Hadimba. The structurewas built in the year 1553. The temple is surrounded by a thick and beautiful cedar forest.An enormous rock occupies the inside of the temple. The image which represents the Goddess Hadimba is 3 inches tall. The doors of the temple are wooden and wonderfully carved. Just a while away from the temple is the shrine dedicated to Lord Ghatothkach, who was born, when goddess Hadimba married Bhima.
At about 3 km from the main bazar in old Manali lies the temple of Manu Rishi. It is believed that it is the only temple dedicated to the great sage. Manu is believed to be the creator of mankind, the law maker to the world. There is a stone path to the temple, from old Manali. This is the place where God Manu is believed to have meditated after stepping on the Earth.
Vashisht temple is 6 km from Manali by road. If you walk through short paths, it is a half hour walk from Manali. Vashist is a town of mixed cultures. You will find the most modern day cafes, alongside with ancient houses with a verandahs and cows tied outside. One can see interesting traditional wood and stone houses with amazing carvings in the village. The temple complex has hot water springs. There is also an enclosed hot water bath near the temple.
Vashisht village is a slightly quieter and more compact version of Old Manali and a popular travellers’ hang-out. There are mainly two reasons for an Indian tourists coming to Vashisht, one is to bathe in the hot springs and secondly seeking the blessings in the various the temples, while foreign travellers largely come for the cheap accommodation, chilled atmosphere and Joints. Vashisth also has some amazing trails into the forests.
This is nearly 3 KM trek from Vashisht temple. The trek route passes through narrow lanes by the side of the temple and you have to cross apple orchards, majestic pine trees and numerous water streams to reach there. On the way few local cafes and guest houses are also available.
A gentle walk will take 30 minutes to reach the base of the waterfall. While travelling you can see the Beas river and also view the snow clad peaks of Rohtang at your left side. Jogini mata temple is at the base of the waterfall. You can even climb up and reach the top point of the waterfall. The stiff climb will take 20 minutes more to reach at top. If you don’t want to climb up then you can reach the base of the waterfall towards your right side through a narrow path. Here there is small pool formed by the falling water and here you can take a dip in the cold waters and spend some time just playing around. The best thing is sit near temple and watch the waterfall. Walking along this trail is the best way to enjoy local scenic beauty and vibrant Manali Village culture.
You can cover Vashisht temple ( hot spring bath ) and Jogini water fall in a half day program. Take your packed lunch and enjoy the food at the base of the water fall.
Afternoon is better for photography as sunlight directly falls on the water droplets.
Solang valley is 14 km from Manali by road. This is like one fairy tale ride which takes you to a place which provides you with umpteem escapades. If you want to go by the less travel route, there is a trekking trail along the left bank of the River Beas, which takes 2 hours to reach Solang. Solang valley is place from where the mighty mountains start. This is the road head point for many expeditions and treks. Rohtang slopes are used for skiing in the winters. In the summers skiing is replaced by zorbing, paragliding and horse riding.
Close to the river Beas, surrounded by tall pine trees is the Van Vihar. It is kind of a magical place, you can hear the sound of the river below and the birds humming in the trees above you. There are plenty of swings for children here. There are plenty of solitary places around having wooden benches, where one can enjoy quite/peaceful moments. There is also a small pool where one can go boating.
One of the three prominent mountaineering institutes in India, the mountaineering institute in Manali is spread over 20 acres of land. It has wonderful campus, which is nestled between a huge cedar forests. It has a huge hostel, a museum, a huge auditorium and an exotic lodge. The institute’s alumni comprise of many great mountaineers like Dicky Dolma,Rajeev Sharma, Col. Prem Chand, Radha Sharma, and many more.
This small village is located on the opposite bank of Manali, 6 kms towards Kullu. Jagatsukh is more popularly known as the start of trekking points for peaks of Indrasan and Deo Tibba. There is a very famous Shiva temple here. There are many nice spots around Jagatsukh where one can spend time in solitude.
The club house is run by the Himachal tourism department. It is situated at the banks of a stream. There is a nominal entry fee. There are several indoor and outdoor games like, billiards, table tennis, roller skating etc that one can enjoy here. There is also a library here. The main building houses a bar and a restaurant.
ROHTANG PASS (3990 m )
The main element of any journey you take across the 3990 metres high 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 Spiti, it is a journey of great experiences. The land beyond is a vast canvas of inhabited mountain chains with a few small distant villages. Rohtang Pass is 51 km by road from Manali. Rohtang pass is the first of the many passes on the Manali-Leh Highway. Rohtang means “bed of corpses”, as many people have perished trying to cross it in yesteryears. Now a days the road is better and the B.R.O has been doing a great job in maintaining the road.
There is a temple dedicated to the great sage Beas here. One of the streams which meets the river Beas originates here. While climbing up to Rohtang, Mahri is the last village and while descending toward keylong, Koksar is the first village. Rohtang is open for a brief period from May to November, rest of the time it is covered in snow.
Spread out along the lovely Parvati River and with mountain views to the northeast, Kasol is the main traveler hang-out in the valley. It’s a small village, but overrun with reggae bars, bakeries, internet cafes and cheap guesthouses catering to a largely hippie/Israeli crowd. You’ll either love it or just feel the vibes getting you the hang of this place It’s an easy base which is well connected with road, from which to explore the forested valley or just chill out. The village is divided into Old Kasol on the Bhuntar side of the bridge, and new Kasol towards Manikaran.
The best thing to do here is take a walk along the side of the Parvati river. With the river on one side and majestic pine trees on the other and smooth grey boulders separate the lush green grass from the gushing blue-green water of the river. Every bend in the river opens up to an exciting vista of pine trees, cliffs and waterfalls. All this is framed with snow capped peaks piercing the happy blue sky at the horizon. Please dont try to cross the river by getting into it. the Flow is faster than it looks. The water is gushing and cold. There is an old bridge, by which you can go on the opposite bank. The memories of spending a few days here in this tranquil atmosphere will remain in your hearts till eternity.
Manikaran is located about 4 km from Kasol, and 45 km from the town of Kullu, on the banks of the Parvati river at an altitude of 1760 m. The town is famous for its hot sulphur springs. The place is sacred to both Hindus and the Sikhs. There is a Gurudwara and many temples here. The Gurudwara is run privately by some family. Manikaran also acts as a halt for trekkers who climb the Pin Parvati pass or trek into the mountains further up.
TOSH (2400 m)
Tosh Village in Kasol is quite popular with travellers who are looking for a peaceful escape, and want to feel the pure inner feeling which you do not get in crowded hill towns. The travelers who come to Tosh are inbound from europe especially from Germany, UK and italy. You will see a lot of Isrealies here. These people are ones who do not interfere in other peoples business and for them traveling is a way of life. Its about just being in a place, and letting in the natural vibes the palce has to offer. A lot of domestic travelers have staring venturing into this valley. some of them get exited and land up doing stupid things. But things are changing and getting better.
When you enter the village there is a beautiful wooden bridge. A walk through the village is a pleasant trail through apple fields and green pastures. Since, Tosh is fast becoming a hub for backpackers, lot of camps are opening deep inside the woods. There have been talks of trance and psychedelic parties being organised here, but they are totally personal affairs, so dont expect to be a part of one just by reaching here. Yes there is a sniff of marijauna in the air, but I as a traveler never recommend this. You do not need to have this to attain trance. I know only one addiction is the best, that is Traveling and Adventure, and here at Tosh there are ample opputunities for this. Trekking uphill through the forest is a shorter route to reach this place. you can get a cab till here, but then you miss the lovely uphill walk.The village is located on a hillside overlooking the river and a waterfall. It is ideal to undertake long walks into the forest and explore the area.
KHEERGANGA (2960 m)
The trek to Kheer Ganga is a nine kilometer from Barshaini, four hour steep climb on narrow and tricky trails. The village of Pulga falls on this route at 3 kilometres from Barshaini. Some distance from here is the Temple of Rudranaag, which is located at a very beautiful place. This trek can get challenging at times, but it not so tough. Kheerganga is a lush green meadow with a few wooden houses. It is more famous for its geo-thermal hot water springs. The hot water spring has separate bathing areas for males and females. A hot water bath in these springs will give you relaxation from the fatigue after the trek.The place is surrounded by majestic mountains and the climate is pleasant in the summer months. There is lush green landscape all around. Pay a visit to the nearby temple for customary blessings from the local deity there. This place is important as as it is part of the camps for the world famous Pin Parvati Trek.
Location : Himachal Pradesh
It is chilly during the winter months, and there has been very less snowfall in the recent years. It starts to warm up by the end of march, and the spring season is quite pleasant. The summers are warm and temperatures go upto 30 degrees, but the evenings are cool. The Rainy season starts by the end of June and by end of August Shimla becomes sunny and pleasant back again. The fall season is warm and you have wonderful colours all around. The mercury begins to plummet in early November.
Shimla is 350 Kms from Delhi and 120 Kms from Chandigarh. The highway is being widened presently. There is also an narrow gauge rail network to Shimla from Kalka. This is also been declared as an International heritage. The nearest airport is at Chandigarh, which has flights from all major centres in India.
All major mobile networks funtion here.
Shimla has very unpredictable weather, and it can become cold anytime, so keep a warm garment handy.
If coming by your own vehicle arrive early, so that you get a place to park. Shimla has a huge Parking problem.
Please do not make faces at the monkeys or try to feed them.
Himachal is a No Polythene state, so make sure you dont carry this material here. Please don’t leave garbage on the mountains,
Never venture into the high mountains without a proper trained guide and never try to enter flowing rivers to take photographs. It can be fatal.
Shimla is 110 km from Chandigarh. The road journey takes about 4 hrs by car and about 5hrs by bus. Out of all hill stations in India, Shimla has always had its own charm, basically due to its pleasant climate, easy accessibility, and an easy base for all exhilarating routes to the State’s far away areas. It still has various heritage buildings constructed by the British. There are places in Shimla, where vehicular traffic is never been allowed. You have to access these places on foot, which further adds to the charm of the place and inculcates the habit of walking. There are plenty of short walks in and around Shimla.
The Mall Road
The Mall Road is the main attraction of Shimla. Unlike the modern malls, it carries the age old British tradition of “walking with leisure”. It is one long walking and shopping experience. A walk on the Mall Road is a way of life for Shimaites. It is the centre of social life in Shimla. There are lots of shops, cafes, fast food joints and restaurants on the Mall Road that one can enjoy. In the centre of the Mall is the Gaiety theatre, where all social
recreations take place since British times. Still all cultural activities and traditional functions take place here. Then there is the town hall, centre to all administrative works in Shimla and the office of the Municipal Corporation of Shimla. Both these are heritage buildings. A walk here is just a lifetime experience.
Just above the Mall Road walk, is a flat area, known as Ridge maidan. This area is always packed with people, mostly tourists, enjoying the view of the snow clad Himalayas, or the locals just basking in the sun. There are a few Maple trees here, which were brought from Kashmir. You have a 360-degree view from here. Towards the north you can have a fascinating view of the snow clad Pir Panjal ranges. There is a statue of a Father of the nation, Shri Mahatma Gandhi. There is also a small park, which has a famous statue of ‘Him Bala’, symbolizing the purity and generosity of a pahari girl. The Ridge also has the most prominent land mark of Shimla – The Christ Church. The other very prominent building here is the State Library building. The Ridge maidan is also used for public meetings, and festivals. Every year during summers, a Shimla Summer Festival is held here, which showcases various traditional dances and songs of Himachal.
The Viceregal lodge is about 2 kms from Shimla. It’s at half an hour walk from the Mall Road. It can be reached by car too. It is also known as the Rastrapati bhawan, and Indian Institute of Advance Studies. It is located on the observatory hill, on the same ridgeline as of Shimla. It was formerly the residence of the British viceroy of India. It houses, some of the most ancient articles, and photographs, going back to the times of British rule in India. It has a huge green lawn in front, which is full of wonderful hill flowers. There are lawns and
small grounds all around. The Viceregal lodge was designed by British architect Henry Irwin and built in the Jacobbethan style during the regime of Lord Dufferin.
The State museum
Just a short walk from the mall, just before the Viceregal lodge campus, is the state museum. The museum is located on a lonely hilltop in an old house, the place is also known as Inveram. The serenity and the quietude of the distant mountains from this place is striking. The state museum was opened in January 1974 to collect and preserve
the ancient artistic, historical, archaeological and ethnological human works in order that the future generations may have access to the cultural treasure it has inherited from the past. Since then the institution has played a significant role in collecting and preserving the scattered cultural heritage, which otherwise was endangered and was on the verge of extinction.
Jahkoo is the highest point of Shimla, at an altitude of 2455 m. It is famous for a temple dedicated to lord Hanuman. Legend has it that while searching for sanjeevni bhuti plant, Lord Hanuman rested here. Jahkoo temple is about 3 km from the city. There are various ways to reach here. It is connected by road, but the most pleasurable way is the walk from the ridge, or a pony ride. The walk passes through a thick deodar forest. On days when
there is no haze, you can see the snow clad Himalayan range at a distance. The walk takes about an hour. The other famous temples in Shimla include the Sankat Mochan temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman, which is connected by road, and Kali bari temple, which is a short walk from the main mall road.
Situated at a modest altitude of 2044 m, Naldhera is just 22 km from Shimla.This place takes you away from the hustle bustle of the crowded Shimla Town. This place has it’s own vibes of quietness and tranquility , and one can just relax here in solitude. The area has lots of meadows which is surrounded by lust green Deodar and cedar trees. It is famous for long walks through forest trails, and pony rides. It has one of the oldest nine hole Golf course in the country.
Located at an elevation 2146 m, Mashobra is about 10 km from Shimla. This village is connected by a road which is used during the winters when the main highway towards Kinnaur is blocked due to snowfall. Mashobra gives tourists a taste of history and scenic beauty. This place is part of Shimla Reserve Forest sanctuary and catchment area. The natural vegetation comprises pine, oak, cedar or Himalayan deodar, and rhododendron, as well as maple and horse chestnut. The wildlife consists of baboons, jackals, kakkar (barking deer), and lots of leopards are spotted here lately, as well as numerous bird species such as the Himalayan eagle, pheasants, chikor and partridges. This place also is a escapade for visitors who just want to be away from the Shimla hustle bustle.
Situated at an altitude of mere 656 m, Tatapani is a tourist destination located on the banks of the River Sutlej. This place is more famous for it’s rafting sites. Tatapani also has a few hot water sulphur springs.
This is a small village 13 kms from Shimla at an elevation 2514 m. The entire area around Chharabra is densely forested and is part of Shimla Reserve Forest Sanctuary and water Catchment Area .This place has a magnificent view of the snow clad Himalayas, and one of the densest forests in Asia. There are a few small treks here, the more famous one being a short walk from Dhalli to Charabra, and another between Charabra and Kufri.
Situated at an altitude of 2990 m, some 13 km from Shimla, towards the interior hills of Himachal, is the quiet and forested town of Kufri. It is famous for its pony and yak rides through forest trails. A lot of amusement parks have come up in the area. There is a forest of Oak, Pine and Rhododendron. The view towards the south holds the snow clad Shiwalik ranges. Peaks like Kinner kailash and Shrikhand are visible from here.
Located at an elevation of 2250 m, Chail is about 45 km From Shimla via Kufri, and 55 Kms from Kandaghat. Kandaghat is located on the Chandigarh Shimla Highway. The tourist destination has a very interesting history. During the British rule. Maharaja Bhupinders Singh was ousted from Shimla, the summer capital at that time. The made the Maharaja very angry and he decided to make a summer capital especially for himself. So the selected the serene location of Chail for the purpose. The village was admist a lush forest of Deodar and Rhododendrons. Over the years Chail has become a favourite destination for visitors from all over due to the tranquility it offers, admist a very charming location. The summer climate is also very pleasant, so lots of summer camps are being established in this area especially near a place called Sadhu Pul. A Kilometer away from Chail is the famous Sidh Baba Temple. 3 Kms away, there is also a cricket Ground, which is supposedly the highest full size cricket ground in the world.
Fagu is a small hamlet, located on Kinnaur-Spiti highway. It is 22 km from Shimla. This place is a heaven for tranquility lovers because it is away from the crowdedness of Shimla and its nearby tourist spots. It offer a great view of the snow bound mountain. There are lots of forested areas around, where one can go for short walks and excursions. Fog characterizes the hillside landscape endowed with romantic ambience.
At an altitude of 2708 m, Narkanda is 64 Km from Shimla. It offers the first full view of the Himachal snow clad Himalayas from a spectacular near distance. It is surrounded by a forest of Pine, deodars, oaks, and firs. It has an excellent ski slope. The famous Hatu temple is 7 km from Narkanda at an elevation 0f 3457 m. Hatu also offer a day’s hike to the top and back, through a dense forest. The top of Hatu has a wonderful wood carved temple. Hatu offers a panoramic 360-degree view of the mountains and valleys.
Kotgarh is beautiful valley at an elevation of 7,000 feet overlooking the Satluj River and snow clad sub Himalayan Range. The place is famous for its Apple and Cherry orchards. This village is 80 kilometres from Shimla on the old Hindustan Tibet Road. The Road bifurcates from the National Highway 22 at Narkanda toward Kotgarh. This scenic valley offers a marvellous panorama of mountain range, the far ones being snow clad and the near ones being covered with thick deodar trees. In the lower portion of the valley flows the river Sutlej. The area is dotted with huge apple plantations and farmhouses amidst the terraced fields. There are lot of short walks through the forests and apple orchards.
In 1815, Kotgarh became a British territory after the Gurkhas were defeated by the Britishers. The Britishers were impressed by the location, and beauty of the valley. The British encouraged missionary work in the area. You can find the impact of British rule here. Kotgarh is also an ideal holiday location in the Himachal Himalayas.
It was in 1916 that an American missionary from Philadelphia, USA, by the name of Samuel Evan stokes visited this place. He had initially come for spreading the teachings of Christianity, but he was so allured by the people and beauty of the area that he decided to settle here permanently. He married a local girl, by the name of Agnes Benjamin. He converted into a Hindu and renamed himself Satyananda Stokes. The descendants of Satyanand Nand stokes still live in kotgarh. Satyananda Stokes planted the first commercial apple farm of the area, with plants imported from the famous Stark Apple Nursery growers of Louisiana. As he was a great social worker, he encouraged the local farmers to grow apples in their fields. It’s been 100 years since he propagated the first apple trees here, which still reap rich harvest, and the valley is one of the wealthiest in the Himalayas.
At a modest altitude of 1350 m, Dutt Nagar is a small hamlet situated on the banks of River Satluj, on the N.H. 22, enroute Kinnaur and Spiti. It is 120 km from Shimla.The village is famous for its almond, pear and Plum Orchards. It is an ideal place for a mid-way stop between Chandigarh and Kinnaur. It is also a base for treks up the Mural Mountain near Sungri, Shrikhand Mahadev Trek, and Sewalsor lake trek.
At an altitude of 2313 m, Sarahan is 175 km from Shimla. 25 km from Rampur Bushar; from a place called Jeori, you take the hairpin turn toward the right. Sarahan is 17 km from Jeori. Sarahan is known for the Famous Bhimakali Temple. Sarahan was the capital of the erstwhile Bushar Estate. The view from Sarahan is awesome. The snow covered peaks are just in front of you. You can also view the Shrikhand Mahadev peak. There is also a bird breeding centre here. There are plenty of short walks and excursions from Sarahan.
Kharapathar is 85 kms from Shimla at an altitude of about 2700 m. It is a perfect leisure destination in the heart of nature’s generous blessings to the area. Lush forests, wide views, excellent walk and hike trails and the charm of apple orchards make this a perfect leisure destination. A trek to mouth of Giri Ganga, and the meadows ahead, through deodar woods is very famous. One can also drive up 7 km to Giri Ganga.
Located at an elevation of 1442 m, Hatkoti is a small town on the banks of River Pabbar and it is about 102 km from Shimla. Hatkoti is famous for Hateshwari temple. Hatkoti also has a regional centre of the Mountaineering Institute in Manali. It is a great base for trekking and mountaineering activity in the Pabbar, and Chanshal region.
Chanshal is a mountain area, which divides the Dodra Kawar area with the main Pabbar valley – the Rohru Chirgaon area. At an altitude of 3750 m, the pass is 180 km from Shimla. The pass remains open from May to October and is covered with snow for the rest of the year. A very good place to hang out if you enjoy adventures and are ready to invest time in travelling to see the less explored beauty. The Chanshal pass is also known as Chanshal valley and offers amazing scenic beauty of the Himalayas. There are many small lakes here, which one can trek too. The nearest station across the pass is Larot. There is no accommodation available at the pass.
Kalka to Shimla train timings / timetable
Train Number Name From Departure To Arrival
52456 Himalayan Queen Kalka 12:10 Shimla 17:20
52457 SML KLK Pass Kalka 04:00 Shimla 09:20
72451 Rail Motor Kalka 05:10 Shimla 09:50
52452 Shivalik Deluxe Kalka 05:30 Shimla 10:15
52454 SML KLK express Kalka 06:00 Shimla 11:05
Kalka Shimla holiday special trains run in the peak tourist season only
Train Number Name From Departure To Arrival
02451 Kalka Shimla Special Kalka 07:00 Shimla 12:10
02453 Kalka Holiday Special Kalka 12:45 Shimla 06:10
Shimla to Kalka train timings / timetable
Train Number Name From Departure To Arrival
52456 Himalayan Queen Shimla 10:30 Kalka 16:10
52458 SML KLK Pass Shimla 14:25 Kalka 20:10
72452 Rail Motor Shimla 16:25 Kalka 21:35
52452 Shivalik Deluxe Shimla 17:40 Kalka 22:25
52454 SML KLK express Shimla 18:25 Kalka 23:20
Shimla Kalka Holiday Special trains: these run in the peak tourist season only
Train Number Name From Departure To Arrival
02452 Kalka Shimla Spl Shimla 15:50 Kalka 21:10
02454 Kalka Holiday Spl Shimla 09:25 Kalka 15:20
Status of some Important Roads. as on 21st March 2016
Chandigarh to Shimla Open
Rampur to Chitkul Open till Chitkul
Kalpa to Kaza Open, a few landslides near Urni
Kunzam pass Open
Rohtang Pass Open