Catching a bus on a chilly morning of Shimla, I started my journey towards the incredible land of Kinnaur, unaware of the adventure that awaited me. Carefully reserving my front seat next to the driver, I made sure to catch the best of this picturesque landscape. The journey was enticing. I was travelling through the narrow roads of NH 22, labelled as the top 10 deadliest roads in the world by Discovery Channel.
But more than the ‘deadly part’ it was an impressive change of terrain which kept me intrigued on the way. The classic green Himalayas was making way to a much steeper barren mountains slowly, filled with snow over its cap.
Passing through the scenic beauty of Thanedar- the Apple land of Himachal Pradesh– and quaint town of Narkanda, the bus stopped at Rampur for lunch. I was told by the locals that I needed to wait for few more hours, when I would be greeted with the magnificent first view of the enchanting Kinner Kailash range. Eagerly waiting to catch its glimpse, I seated myself back in the bus to start my journey towards the administrative town of Kinnaur- Reckong Peo. But my rendezvous with Kinnaur had to wait.
We met with a landslide ahead of Mandi, minutes before the bus was supposed to pass the route.
Carrying two backpacks, I had to make a choice. Either I stop at Mandi and wait for the route to open or take de-tour to catch another bus in the evening from Karcham. I chose the latter. Crossing over the navel bend water of the furious Beas, I reached the other side of the road where the local Maxis were waiting for the tourists to take them to the bus station. In the mighty company of villagers and a bone breaking journey of over an hour through the treacherous roads, I reached Karcham to take the next available bus towards Reckong Peo. I finally met the land of my dreams at 7 PM in the evening, as the only ‘tourist’ in the town. Being the only traveller in a small town comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. The advantage was that I managed to seal a good deal with the hotel and the disadvantage was that the entire town knew me, while I roamed care-free in the otherwise busy market.
Nevertheless, the next morning as I moved the curtains of my room, a beautiful sun-kissed Golden Kinner Kailash range welcomed me.
As the morning hue settled in, I got myself ready for my first stop at Kalpa, which is a 9 km drive from Reckong Peo. I took one of the local buses from the station which plies on the route in every 15 mins.
The first look of Kalpa felt like a land straight out of the fairy tales surrounded by lofty mountains and tall Pine trees.
A little walk on its narrow lanes flanked by apple orchards, a short trek to the nearby forest and view of sunset over the snow capped mountains were enchanting enough to make me fall in love with this Himalayan village.
Though Kalpa does not specifically have any tourist spots but a visit to the nearby Chini & Roghi Village is a must to witness astounding architecture of its age old temples as well as the natural beauty. Suicide point is another famous tourist attraction here. Irrespective of the scary name, this place provides great views of surrounding mountains.
A villager introduced me to the famous Kinnar Kailash Shivling which looked like a tiny white nib like structure. The Shivling is a naturally formed rock structure and supposedly changes colours many times in a day. But without a binocular, it was almost impossible to differentiate the colours. The only colours I could see with naked eyes were white, saffron and greyish black. I passed the day strolling through the narrow roads of Kalpa and relishing its beauty. As sun went down, the snow covered peaks started turning in to a reddish orange hue shrouded with orange clouds that created an impression of burning mountain peaks.
My next stop was Sangla which is another picturesque valley of Kinnaur surrounded by snow-capped peaks.
I made a quick stop for lunch here since I wanted to carry on towards Chitkul village, 28km ahead. The drive through the narrow road is spectacular and adventurous, where my bus crossed over streams. There are endless pastures and meadows below the lofty peaks and greenery all around. This charming village has traditional Kinnauri-style wooden houses with slate roofs and small shops to serve tea and food. Chitkul, on the banks of Baspa River, is the first village of the Baspa Valley and the last village on the old Hindustan-Tibet trade route.
It is also the last point in India one can travel to without a permit. The yellow and pink coloured shrubs or the moss covered ground, the trees with yellow leaves or the crystal clear water of the Baspa River; everything makes it a coveted place for nature lovers.
My original plan was to head back to Sangla the same day but I decided to stay back to explore more of this virgin beauty. And I was lucky to witness the hailstorm and heavy snowfall the same day
From the riotous green of Kalpa & Sangla Valley, filled with orchards of apricots, peaches, chilgozas and apples to the magnificent desolation of the Hangrang Valley, the nature’s portrait is an ever changing one in Kinnaur. Lying on the ancient trade route of India and Tibet, this district is surrounded by three high mountains ranges i.e. Zanskar, Greater Himalayas and Dhauladhar. The gushing rivers of Kinnaur have over the centuries chiseled beautiful gorges across this picturesque land and nurtured one of the most unique societies on their banks. In the lush land live the descendants of the Kinners- the halfway between men and gods, whose deeds have been immortalized in epic poems of ancient Sanskrit poets.
- Distance from Delhi: 612 kms
- Travel Route: You can reach Kinnaur Valley via Shimla or Manali. Manali route remains closed during the winters due to closure of Rohtang Pass
- Shimla– Narkanda- Mandi-Karcham-Sarahan-Sangla-Chitkul-ReckongPeo-Kalpa
- Best Time to Travel: Kinnaur Valley is accessible throughout the year. However April-May and Oct-November is the best time to travel to Kinnaur. Avoid Monsoons due to landslides
- What to Pack: Warm jacket and light woollens during summers. Down Feather Jacket and heavy woollens during winters
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