The Adventurer’s Delight: An itinerary for Spiti

Mountains and clouds reflected in the Dhankar Lake - the hidden treasure which can only be reached by a good 2 hour trek!

Settling on Spiti as our destination was not tough. You only have to take one look at the amazing untouched vistas to know that visiting this place is going to be surreal. Ever since we were little children, learning how to draw sceneries of nature, the first thing we drew were the two little inverted ‘V’s – the mountains and the valley. No matter what you draw after that, a scenery is never complete without the mountains.

The quintessential natural scenery, complete with mountains, river and a village - there is no dearth of these views in Spiti
The quintessential natural scenery, complete with mountains, river and a village – there is no dearth of these views in Spiti

But little did we realise, that Spiti is dotted with numerous small villages all along the mountain sides. In fact, there was a point we hiked to, which boasted to be the vantage point from which one could spot 25 villages at once! The entire valley is filled with breathtaking wallpaper views. You could spend months hiking around those mountains and never tire of the views. How then, do you decide where to go when limited by time.

 

The 5000m high vantage point from which one can spot 25 villages at the same time on a clear day! We saw 19!
The 5000m high vantage point from which one can spot 25 villages at the same time on a clear day! We saw 19!

Luckily, we didn’t have to make that decision. The ecosphere sent us an amazing itinerary containing the best Spiti has to offer which can be covered in a 8-9 day trip. Additionally, this being a photography tour, we could be rest assured that we would probably not miss the best views. We were not disappointed.

Why Spiti?

You can read in detail about our motivation to choose Spiti if you are still looking for inspiration.

Go to Spiti if – you like going off the beaten path; meeting new people and learning about new cultures excites you; you dream of lying down at night and gazing at millions of stars in the sky; you have never seen a shooting star; waking up to majestic mountains and blue skies is your idea of a perfect vacation; you love local home made food. The list is endless.

Off the beaten path - Blue skies and dirt roads!
Off the beaten path – Blue skies and dirt roads!

But don’t go to Spiti if you are looking for easy comforts of a resort vacation or if you have a medical condition which may get worsened by high altitudes. The air is thin and the medical facilities are limited. The roads are hard and dusty and there is no air conditioning, no cell phone coverage.

The mountains are cold and unforgiving but you will always be rewarded with blue skies in the day and millions of stars twinkling at night.

When to go to Spiti?

Spiti is open for tourism from March onwards, but it is still a little cold during this time. We went before the summer was in full swing – third week of June. The season last all the way till middle of October. The best way to figure out if it’s okay to go is to look at the dates of the pre-arranged tours of ecosphere.

Additionally, ‘spotting the snow leopard’ tours and wildlife tours are very famous in Spiti during the winter months.

Yellow beaked crow takes flight in the dazzling bright blue skies one fine morning in Demul!
Yellow beaked crow takes flight in the dazzling bright blue skies one fine morning in Demul!

How to reach Spiti?

There are two ways of reaching Spiti. Your itinerary will either start from Shimla and go via Spiti to end at Manali (which is what we did). Or you will start at Manali and end up back at Manali (more famous and shorter route). So depending on where your trip starts, you have to reach either Shimla or Manali.

Reaching Manali

It’s best to take an overnight bus from Delhi to reach Manali.

Reaching Shimla

You can choose to take an overnight bus from Delhi to Shimla or you can fly into Chandigarh and take a cab to Shimla.

Under the milky way and billions of stars - A dream come true!
Under the milky way and billions of stars – A dream come true!

Budgeting for the holiday

You can go through the packing tips for the holiday here.

Spiti is not a very expensive destination. You can easily find cheap and basic accommodations, a lot of homestays with home cooked meals included. It mostly depends on how long your trip is and how big your group is. It can range anywhere from Rs. 15,000/- per person to about Rs. 50,000/- per person. If you are looking for luxurious accommodations, there are swiss tents available at certain places.

Add the cost of reaching Shimla / Manali for a good estimate of your itinerary’s budget.

A look at the itinerary

We did a 11 day trip which included travel from and back to Bangalore. The actual Spiti trip was about 8 nights. If you want to do a shorter, quicker trip, that’s possible too. There are trips starting from 5 nights. But we wanted to do the full circuit of Shimla to Manali, so this was ideal for us. It did include quite a bit of road travel on certain days, but those were few and far between.

Day 1: Bangalore to Shimla via Chandigarh
Day 2: Shimla to Sarahan
Day 3: Sarahan to Kalpa
Day 4: Kalpa to Tabo via Nako
Day 5: Tabo to Dhankar
Day 6: Dhankar to Demul via Pin Valley
Day 7: Explore Demul and some Hiking
Day 8: Demul to Langza via Komic
Day 9: Langza to Kee via Kaza
Day 10: Kee to Manali Via Chandratal
Day 11: Manali to Bangalore via Chandigarh

You can checkout the interactive travel map here.

Road Much Cycled

Since Spiti can only be travelled by road, people create their own unique adventures. We went in a tempo traveller, but you would meet all kinds people travelling in their own ways – bikers, cyclists, hikers, etc. We met and chatted with more than a few of them in our trip and each one of them had some amazing stories to tell.

If you are more adventurous and like cycling or hiking, some of the resources here would be very helpful to you. Along with other things, it includes an elevation map of the full circuit, which can be very helpful while planning your day wise itinerary and stops.