Himachal Pradesh - Travelling
Winter Chitkul, Sangla-Baspa Valley, Kinnaur
Unexpected Trip From Delhi to Himachal : It began the same day in the month of October, when I was in my office before the Festival of Deewali. I was blank that how can I spend 4 days festival weekend to stay at home doing nothing and that the wakeup call which shaked me harder. After that I took just 1 Hour to decide n' plan for road trip to the last village of Himachal. I was alone, just pack my camera, short and tshirt in 40 Ltr Bagpack. I pressed my ignition switch and leave the house without any booking of bus/hotel. When I reach ISBT everywhere was messed, its like a hell. Its very crowed as I expected for Festival Weekend. Everything was book through online booking, even local HRTC buses are also full. After too much exercise I got 1 ticket in local HRTC bus which is going direct to Sangla Valley without any halt. When I board the bus, It was Ok not in that bad condition which I expect the local Mountain's Buses, we started Journey.
We start the journey and the bus took the NH1 going towards Panipat and it was time to cut loose. First stop at Sukhdev Dhabha, Murthal which comes right after crossing Karnal, after Dinner we left the place and continue the journey. We crossed Kurukshetra, Ambala and took the NH22 going towards Chandigarh. So journey start on NH22, crossed Panchkula and began my ascent to the Himalayas. We slept because the road condition was very good and steadily upto Shimla. We reached Shimla at early 6:15 am for 30 Minute halt. After short break we started at 7 a.m. from Shimla and kept moving slowly in Mountains. We crossed Kinnaur Valley Gate, Kufri, Shali Bazar, Rampur Bushahr, Jhakri, Tapri, Cooling and reached Karchham Dam. This is the place where we take us off NH22 and put us on the ascent of Sangla-Chitkul Road alongwith Baspa River. A sheer beauty in the Sangla has change at every bend that we took. The beautiful Valley looks like Heavens in the Mountains. Finally we reach Sangla at 4 pm and bus ended here. After a break, I take one local mini bus from Sangla to Chitkul, we crossed the Sangla Village to off road driving of another 24 kms to the Chitkul a dreamland. We reached Chitkul @8p.m. and search a Home-Stay I prefer any local House n' Himachali Food instead of any guest house or hotel, its just another way to help to the locals who survive in the Mountains. This is how end my one way road trip to the "Land of Fairytales" and I celebrate Diwali at Chitkul, Baspa Valley.
“Festivals promote diversity, they bring neighbors into dialogue, they increase creativity, they offer opportunities for civic pride, they improve our general psychological well-being. In short, they make cities better places to live.” – David B.
CHITKUL : LAST INHABITTED VILLAGE
Chitkul is known to be the last village of India and a safest hamlet near the Indo-Tibetan border and last village of India where you can go without a permit. Kinnaur which is known as the ‘Land of Fairy Tales’ has a beautiful backdrop. It surrounded by the three majestic mountain ranges of Zanskar, Greater Himalayas and Dhauladhar. Many treks that can do around Chitkul. Chitkul was another experience, the population is hardly around 600 people. I took a walk around the village just to experience their living condition. Chitkul becomes inaccessible at the time of peak winters, so please avoid going there in late winters without knowing the weather conditions. The view of a green alpine meadow was simply mesmerizing. Drive to feel the thrill, the steep turns around the mountains crushing the fallen stones. This beautiful village can be reached by crossing some of the most dangerous roads. Big and small bridges we crossed to reach closed to the sound of water against the rocks is like pure music. The landscape was breathtaking when we took the right diversion from Karchham, enter to the Baspa Valley. These locations blocked for almost 4 months from November to February due to heavy snowing. Chitkul is less travelled lies in the queen of hills Himachal but without Chitkul village your trip to Himachal is definitely incomplete. Hardly few Kms away the Tibet border and there was a large stretch of no-man’s-land of Indian armed forces. The concrete structures in Village are now slowly taking over the traditional wooden houses. You find the traditional homes, Hindu Temple and the Buddhist monastery.
CHITKUL's CULTURE n’ ARCHITECTURE
The Mathi Devi temple at the cente of village is made of wood and stones is a perfect example of Kinnauri architecture. The only buildings you see in Chitkul are a handful of slate and wooden-plan rooftop houses, built in the traditional Himachali style architecture. People of Chitkul village you could seen wearing the ubiquitous green Kinnauri caps. A little away from the Mathi Temple is the Chitkul Fort, which is three stored structure made of alternate layers of stone/wood and only local villagers is allowed to enter. Kinnaur has a striking resemblance to the Tibetan culture and the living style of the people reflects the same. The tall pagoda style temple stood out among the low roofed house. The village is a perfect retreat for travelers who are looking for a break. Villager spend a very simple life, farming is only activity they get busy with. Major attractions is apple gardens surrounded by camping sites. The wood carvings on the ceilings were detailed and exquisite on Temple. The colorful Buddhist flag not only added a flavor of devotion to the environment but also added a bit of vibrancy with their cheerful colors. It is considered winter residence of Lord Shiva. It is said that Lord Shiva conduct a meeting of all Devi-Devtas on Kinner Kailash Top in month of January. The skilled local craftsmen had definitely created it with patience and care. The locals are shows warm hospitality to the tourists. The road ends here.
June is probably a peak season in Sangla Valley, the tourists have quality time. The tourists who visit Sangla must must go for half day trip to the natural beauty and relaxed in comfortable surroundings of Chitkul. There are many accommodation options available at Sangla Valley which are good enough to cater to the varied needs of budgets among people. There are several camp sites that offer the amazing views of Apple Gardens. There are economic guest houses which are cheap enough to keep your money saved and there are other luxury properties as well which provide the comfort and facilities if you are looking forward to them. The Himalayan River flows through the mysterious pine forests. Rakchham close to Sangla is one of the most exotic places with the abundance of snowfalls in winter. As you drive to saw blue sky, haven’t seen a bluer than blue ever. It is situated in the north eastern part of Himachal and runs along the Baspa river. The last bus back to Sangla from Chitkul leaves at around 4 pm. Wheat fields are there around the plane areas surrounding the village. Kinner Kailash is among Panch Kailashes, Shri Khand Kailash, Mani Mahesh Lake, Kailash Mansarover, Aadi Kailash. With the cool breeze blowing, we travelled enjoying the breathtaking views of the surroundings till we reached Chitkul via Sangla. As we move from Sangla, the river Baspa gives us company throughout. You can also find some nature camps by the side of the river at Sangla.
TREK n' TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
Buses are not frequent here. I had to rush to be on time to catch the bus for Chitkul at Sangla but I got a seat nevertheless. In winter the inhabitants of Chitkul's villagers move to lower regions of Himachal during this period because village almost covered with snow during winter season. The zigzag roads are surrounded by tall deodar trees gives a senic look. Some landslides areas are on the way, where stones can shoot down any time. On a bad stretch, water is also flowing on the road itself at a good speed and driver had to caution while passing through that patch. Depending on how bad the road conditions are and if it has snowed or not. Few trek trails are around this village. Amazing mountain views, when moved along the river bank. The road to Chitkul is also quite picturesque. We walked around the villages seeing houses and meeting people. Chitkul is all about different landscapes that can mesmerize. Meadows, Mountains, Grasslands, River, forests and Apple orchids, the place has everything! We walked beyond Chhitkul in the fields to feel natural beauty which is lying all around us. Chitkul is the habitation deep within the Kinnaur Valley. Difficult to explain, words cannot define its beauty. It is definitely an attraction for avid explorers. Road Trip in less taken for an adventurous trip is a smart decision for any traveller and discover unexplored destinations. Chitkul's altitude is 11,320 feet, the highest village in Baspa valley. You can also visit an "Old Temple", "Primary School" and “Hindustan ka Aakhiri Dhaba (India's Last Food Court)”. The road to Chhitkul village is again narrow and bumpy through the mountain edges.
STUNNING BASPA RIVER
This river will be at your right side while travelling towards Sangla and Chitkul. Baspa had everything that was expected from a classical mountain river. It was lyrical, sparkling and gentle. I descended down to the river in order to have a closer view to reach the iron bridge over the river. I wanted to stay longer near bank of river and and take a walk to the mountains. Baspa on one side and steep mountains on the other we were driving on dangerous terrain. This exotic destination in the heart of Himachal is blessed with the Baspa River, which travels with you on your right as you mount the stunning Baspa Valley. The lush green forest is at slightly lower altitude on the other side of seductive bluish green Baspa River. The crystal clear Baspa flowing by the village is really breathtaking. I am sure it becomes much more powerful during monsoons but on that autumn evening it was soothing. The edges of Baspa River had some smooth stones in various shades and patterns on them, I sat by river to listen its roar, its joy n’ its flow around the big rocks. Carry your woolen clothes with you even in clear weather to face the cold blowing wind here. Baspa was roaring, after 2 km of trekking on the river side, we reached to a beautiful site surrounded by Glaciers and offering incredible view of Chitkul.
HOW TO REACH
BY AIR : Kangra Airport at Dharamshala is about 290 km away from Rampur Bushahr and is well connected to Shimla, Delhi, Chandigarh. Airlines operate regular flights. After reaching the airport, travellers can hire taxis or take buses to reach their destination, which takes time.
BY TRAIN : Himachal is well connected by the rail network, is the closest broad gauge railhead serving those headed to Rampur. Number of trains connected from all major parts of the country to Himachal. Pathankot Railway Station is the longest in state. Once you reach Pathankot, take a taxi or bus from outside the station, which is easily available. Also for picturesque landscape, choose to travel by the toy train from Kalka to Shimla.
BY ROAD : ISBT Kashmiri Gate has a wide variety of buses plying from ISBT to Chitkul but it is advisable to take a bus to Shimla rest for a bit and then take a roadways bus to Chitkul.
WHEN TO VISIT
chitkul can only be visited during months from March to September, during winters the roads get blocked dew to thick snow. The roads are mostly blocked in winter November to February. The place is usually cold and windy during the summer or mid-winter time and spine-chilling cold during the winters. Avoid the height of monsoon and also the roads are likely to be closed during winter. You will have the best views of Valley is in Spring or just after the monsoon. The village remains inaccessible for almost 4 months November to February due to heavy snowfall. Travelling to Chitkul is no less than a daredevil act as one has to pass through one of the world’s narrow,, bumpy dangerous roads of Kinnaur district. Chitkul is inaccessible during the winter months due to heavy snowfall.
The Kinnaur Region is biker’s paradise. ATM is not available at chitkul, Sangla is the last place where you will get ATM. Mobile networks are not working there, but PCO available in hotel. Chitkul is very close to Sangla Valley where the trek ends. So carry cash. If you are interested in going to the Indo-Tibet border, there are some local people who can assist you on getting the permit. Two buses run to and from Chitkul every day during summers. Neither a clinic nor any hospital in the area and one has to travel back to Sangla for emergencies.