Lahaul Spiti circuit starts from Narkanda and end at Manali. The serenity of the region starts and ends at these locations respectively. The beauty of the nature and experience of travelling on the non existent roads is beyond imagination. While the entire circuit is an adventure by itself there are few places enroute that should be a “no miss” – without fail. I have listed a few locations below that one would want to explore as you travel on this non existing route.
The Adventure further becomes insane when one decides to travel this route during the winters; the snow capped mountains are always calling.
The drive from Chandigarh to Narkanda is about 200 Kms, it takes around 5 to 6 hours. The drive starts with hitting the Great Himalayan Expressway as soon as you leave Panchkula all the way to Shimla. During the winters, the stretch from Shimla to Narkanda starts giving a preliminary experience of driving thru the slushy roads … this is just the beginning of an exciting few days ahead of you. One should drive thru the town of Kufri and then thru Theog to Narkanda
Kufri Zoo: is also and officially known as the “Himalayan Nature Park Kufri“. the zoo was established in the year of 1992. It is located in a small hill town of Kufri, 13 km from the well known vacation town and the capital of Himachal – Shimla. This zoo is a home to many species that include few rare antelopes, different species of felines, deer, bear, snow leopard and birds
Hatu Peak: is the second highest peak in the district of Shimla, accessible from the gateway to the Spiti valley town called Narkanda. It is located at an elevation of 3400 m (11,152 ft) above sea level. On the Hatu Peak, rests The Hatu Mata Temple which and holds great religious significance to the locals. The temple is dedicated to Mandodari, the wife of King Ravana. The peak is surrounded by dense forest of conifers, oaks and maples.
Sarahan bird sanctuary: A small village in Himachal Pradesh, Sarahan is known as the “Gateway of Kinnaur”. The village is famous for its never-ending apple orchards, pine forests, small streams, rustic settings and slate roofed houses. This village is also know as the sanctuary to the mountain birds. The Mountain pheasants are very commonly seen here. Pheasants are the Winged guardians of Mountainscapes. Pheasants are the species of birds to which our national bird, the peacock, belongs.
Temple of god Nages:
Kinnaur Kailasha: (locally known as Kinner Kailash) is a mountain in thea Kinnaur district. Kinnaur Kailash is located at an height of 6050 meters and is considered sacred by both Hindu and Buddhist Kinnauris. This mountain is sometimes confused with the Mount Kailash in Tibet. The monolithic pillar (Shivling) is located at an altitude of around 4500 meters.
Shipki La: is a mountain pass and border post with a dozen buildings of significant size on the India-China border. The mountainous pass is India’s third border post for trade with China after Nathula in Sikkim, and Lipulekh in Uttarakhand. The pass is close to town of Khab. It would be a good idea to avoid this road in severe weather conditions. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime.
Like other border passes along the Indo-Sino disputed border, it is cliamed by the Chinese and the border because of this is now no longer open for non-residents.
Spiti n Sutlej confluence: the Khab Bridge is built over the confluence of these two rivers, The sutlej and the Spiti.
Ka-zigs: are a bunch of zig zag climbing road which one will experience just after crossing the Khab bridge where Spiti river merges with Sutlej (coming from Tibet region in China). After crossing that bridge you enter into this deep gorge and then start the climb. This climb has been called Kazigs.
Nako lake: is a high altitude lake near Pooh. It is said that the Nako village is half buried in the lake’s border. It is about 3,662 metres (12,014 ft) above sea level. Several miles away there is a village called Tashigang around which there are several caves where it is believed that Guru Padmasambhava meditated and gave discourse to followers. There is a waterfall nearby which has snow water falling like a river of milk.
Malling nallah: is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3.875m (12,713ft) above the sea level. The pass is punctuated with landslides and gushing water causing a complete chaos. This is a stretch of road where the entire mountainside keeps sliding down.
The mummy of Gue:
Kibber wildlife sanctuary: is located on the bank of Spiti River and it is India’s only cold desert wild life sanctuary. Spread over 1400 sq km, it is connected by roads to Kibber, Langza and Lhalung villages. Kibber village is situated on the periphery of the sanctuary. It is home for rare animals like ibex, snow leopard, blue sheep and birds like snow cock, bearded eagle griffons.
Spotting Snow Leopards: March is the time when you can plan a trip to Spiti Valley for wildlife spotting especially the elusive big cat called the Snow Leopard !! It is not easy but some have been lucky
The following destinations are not accessible during the winters
Kunzum La: is a beautiful mountain pass in the Kunzum Range of Himalayas. It connects Lahaul valley and Spiti valley. It is on the route from Kaza to Gramphoo in Lahaul. One of the exciting features of the pass is the fifteen hairpin turns along the way. This pass is normally open from June/July to October/November
Chandrataal: As the name suggests (in hindi) , this is known as the Lake of the Moon. Rightly said, the lake should be visited on a full moon night. Access to this lake is from the city of Batal or from Kunsum pass. This is a dream destination for trekkers and campers. There is now also a motarable road that could take you almost 2 Kms from the lake. a 4×4 is a must though
Chhota Dara: lies 17Km before of Chhatru on Kaza-Manali Route and has one of the most ferocious water crossing in entire Mana-Kaza route. There is an 100% possibility that a vehicle would get stuck here would need to be then towed by some bigger vehicle. The route has numerous water crossing but Chota Dara was the toughest one.
Hampta Pass: Hamta Pass lies at an altitude of 4270 m on the Pir Panjal range in the Himalayas. It is a small corridor between Lahaul’s Chandra Valley and Kullu valley. This is one of the easiest treks in Himachal. The trek begins in the green Kullu valley and crosses over, through Hamta Pass, into the drier region of Lahaul. The trek starts from a village of Jobri, in Himachal. Jobri can be accessed by road from Manali
Rohtang La: is a high mountain pass on the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas around 51 km from Manali. It connects the Kullu Valley with the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys. རོ་ (Ro)- corpse, ཐང་། (thang)- plain/field is named as such due to the larger number of people dying in bad weather while trying to cross the pass. The pass is open from May to November. It is not particularly high or difficult to cross on foot by Himalayan standards, but it has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards
Nako Monastery: this monastery was built in the 11th century by an renowned ancient translator Lochen Rinchen Zangpo. The monastery is also known as the complex of the translator. Situated by the Nako Lake, this serene monastery has been constructed on the pattern of the famous Tabo Monastery, in Spiti Valley, and is divided into four halls or chapels.
Key Monastery: is the biggest monastery of Spiti Valley and a religious training centre for Lamas. The Kye gompa is an irregular heap of low rooms and narrow corridors on a monolithic conical hill. Founded by Dromton, a famous disciple of teacher Atisha in the 11th century, the monastery used to house about 350 lamas at one time. It is located at a height of 13,668 feet above mean sea level
Tabo Monastery: (or Tabo Chos-Khor Monastery) is located in the Tabo village. It was founded by a Tibetan Buddhist lotsawa. Tabo is noted for being the oldest continuously operating Buddhist enclave in both India and the Himalayas.
Shimla: Popularly called the “Queen of Hill Stations”. Once the summer capital of the British in 1864 AD. Presently also it is the capital city of Himachal Pradesh. Shimla is a perfect heaven for those in search of tranquility. Nature has blessed this capital city with innumerable gifts and man has used them to make Shimla one of India’s best destinations.
Kufri: is a location 16 km from Shimla which has a famous historic backdrop, for its ski slopes and finished views. Located at 2800 metres above sea level, Kufri Fun World is one of the highest amusement parks in the world. The Himalayan National Park, or the Kufri Zoo offers a steal for the wildlife enthusiasts.
Narkanda: is at an altitude of 2708 meters on the Hindustan-Tibet Road within a fir forest. Soaring at a dizzying height of nearly 12,000 feet, the Hatu Peak is the highest peak located in Narkanda. The slopes of the hill town is perfect for the skills of beginners as well as experienced skiers.
Sarahan: A small village in Himachal Pradesh, Sarahan is known as the “Gateway of Kinnaur”. Located near the old Indo- Tibetan Road this is a beautiful hamlet situated in the Sutlej Valley, at an average altitude of about 2165 m above sea level. The village is famous for its never-ending apple orchards, pine forests, small streams, rustic settings and slate roofed houses.
Sangla: It is an important village of the Baspa valley situated on the right bank of Baspa River. Bounded by strapping mountain slopes, sprawling evergreen forests and snow covered peaks, the valley is set apart from others by its red apples orchard and luscious cherry trees. Also makes its way through the place, meandering and gurgling, famous for trout fishing.
Chitkul (Sangla): Chitkul is a village in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. During winters, the place mostly remains covered with the snow and the inhabitants move to lower regions of Himachal. This village is also the last village of India post which the Tibetan territory starts
Kalpa: the main village of Kinnaur, in the Sutlej River Valley is known for its many beautiful temples and monasteries; this town is also famed for its apple orchards. The majestic Kinnaur-Kailash range peeking from across the Sutlej River makes for a blissful break.
Reckong Peo: also spelled Rekong Peo or simply known as Peo by the locals. The town is spread across a distance of 10 km above the Hindustan-Tibet highway. It is a gateway to the Quaint town of Kapla, the ultimate trekking sport in Bhaba Valley, Kinnaur Kailash, Nako lake, A tranquil spot for meditation at Chandrika Temple etc
Nako: a village full of eye capturing surroundings is the largest village situated in Kinnaur district of the Himachal Pradesh. Mainly this village is a good destination place for nature lover and trekkers. Nako village in Himachal Pradesh, also known as Land of the Fairy tales, is situated in Kinnaur district. The village is fully surrounded by the greenery of the nature.
Gue village: is a tiny hamlet in the Spiti valley almost on the Indo-China border. This village is known for the Mummy that has been residing her for ages. This Mummy belongs to a a Buddhist monk, Sangha Tenzin, who was mummifying himself to free his village from a plague of scorpions. This is probably the only mummy in India which has undergone natural mummification
Tabo: another important tourist place in the Buddhist pilgrimage list, situated in Himachal Pradesh. Located at a distance of 48 km from Kaza, the place is more famous for the ancient monastery. Also known as the Ajanta of the Himalayas, it is flanked by hills on either side is a place not to be missed.
Kaza: sitting huddled in the corner of Himachal Pradesh is a tranquil getaway on the plains of the Spiti River. Kaza is lapped by majestic mountains covered in snow, meandering and bubbling rivers and streams and picturesque barren landscape with scattered patches of green. Today, this city is a wonderful blend of modernity and unique ancient culture that will leave you enchanted with its mystery
The following destinations are not accessible during the winters
Kibber: Locally known as Khyipur, Kibber at an altitude of 4205m above sea level is one of the highest villages in the world. One can spend a day at the rest houses here, with the mountains watching over.
Batal: is a small village in the Lahaul & Spiti district. This is a location for many trekkers who indent to experience the Chandratal. It is said that the largest glacier in the Himalaya is about 7-10 hours from Batal.
Manali: Popularly called the “Switzerland of India” is a small hill town in the valley of Kullu. Manali is extremely popular with tourists for its lavish display of un spoilt natural beauty. Manali is mainly popular for the adventure sports like trekking, mountaineering, hiking, skiing, paragliding, kayaking and mountain biking. It is an excellent place for a holiday.