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Sangla – A Buddhist Town in the lap of Himalayas!

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Sangla village of Kinnaur is a scenic & heavenly Himalayan village revered by travelers and backpackers alike. It is the largest village of the Sangla valley aka Baspa valley and one of the largest in Kinnaur. Located at the middle of the valley and about 18km from the nearest highway i.e NH 05,  it has found a place in an itinerary of every traveller or backpacker for its spellbinding attractions like Kamru, Basteri, Rackham, Chitkul village and Rankanda meadows.   

Sangla Valley

The valley is acclaimed for the Sangla Bering Nag Temple, Kamru Village Fort, Sangla Buddhist Monastery, Beautiful Baspa Valley along & Baspa riverside, India’s last village from Tibet side – Chitkul. Sangla village is the gateway to many high altitude Himalayan treks like Lamkhaga Pass, Rupin Pass & Borasu Pass Trek.  

Best time to visit?

The weather remains cold to bitterly cold from November to March. May to September are pleasant days  So better to visit Sangla is in the months of April to October.  If you want to experience the snow, then December to early March is the best time.

Sangla average rainfall | Sangla weather
Sangla average rainfall
Sangla average temperature | Sangla weather
Sangla average temperature

The Weather of Sangla village:

Sangla is located in the temperate zone. The average yearly temperature of Sangla hovers around 17°C. It peaks in the months of May and June when it reaches 30°C but the weather remains pleasant.

In July, August and September the average rainfall reach its apex point. It crosses the 300mm mark in the month of July. After July it starts decreasing and the average rainfall plummets to less than 100 mm in September month. In October it barely rains. With dwindling rains temperature graph also takes a nose dive and it crosses below 5°C mark in December month.

How to reach Sangla?

It is well connected from Shimla – The Capital of Himachal Pradesh. Once you reach Shimla, There are HRTC Buses available from the Shimla ISBT Tutikandi bus stand, Chandigarh and Delhi.

Mostly the buses leave from Chandigarh in the night, then reach Shimla in the morning. An HRTC bus will leave for Sangla or Rakchham in the morning around 7:00 AM from the Shimla Bus stand.  The long 12-hour bus ride is an adventurous one!

There is a Bus with number HP 25 A 3043 which runs every alternate day from Shimla around 7:00 – 7:15 AM from Shimla Bus stand to Sangla. One can call Shimla Bus Depo Control Room for details on Bus timings, they will help you. For us, Shimla to Sangla HRTC Bus road journey cost just Rs. 354

Note: There is a 25% concession for Women in HRTC Bus ticket fares. Please check with the conductor once you board the bus if you are a woman or a lady traveler.

The helpline number of Shimla Bus Depo Control Room is 01772656326.

If you are visiting Sangla with friends or family, try to take or book Innova, XUV, Tata Sumo or Tempo Traveler from Shimla. This will help you to stop & spend enough time en-route Sangla. The journey from Shimla to Sangla is Epic & Deadly dangerous one with Breathtaking views of Sutlej River, High Mountains, Mountain Villages, Lovely Bridges, Some Beautiful Towns of Kinnaur Valley.

Distance from different cities:

If you are traveling from the different States of India, it is better to reach Delhi or Chandigarh by Flight, Train or other transport options then plan accordingly in advance. This will help to reach Sangla without any transport issues.

From Delhi: Around 590 Kms. via NH44 and NH5 (Delhi to Sangla)

From Chandigarh: Around 354 Kms. via NH5 (Chandigarh to Sangla)

From Shimla: 240 Kms. via NH5 (Shimla to Sangla)

How to reach Sangla from Shimla: From Shimla, Take following route to Sangla: Shimla –> Kufri –> Fagu –> Rampur –> Tapri –> Karcham –> Sangla

Altitude: Altitude of Sangla Valley, Kinnaur District, Himachal Pradesh comes to around 3000 Mtr.

Bucketlist Places To See Around Sangla Village  

Kamru village 

Kamru village is around a 2-kilometer easy hike from the Sangla Town. It is famous for its Kamru Fort & Temple. Please don’t miss to explore these Ancient Buddhist architectures while exploring Sangla. It is must visit when you are in Sangla!

Kamru Temple: Kamru Temple is situated just below Kamru Fort. This temple is called Shree Badri Vishal Ji Temple of Kamru Village which is also a 15th Century shrine of Lord Badrinath, which hosts a light every three years.

Kamru village, Baspa valley,Kinnaur
Kamru village
Kamru temple , Baspa valley , Kinnaur
Beautiful Kamru Temple in the lap of Himalayas!
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Buddhist Temple in Kamru village

Kamru Fort

Kamru Fort is one of the Oldest Fort’s located in Sangla valley of Kinnaur District, Himachal Pradesh. Kamru Fort is the main historical place of the Valley. After 2 Kms. walk from Sangla Town, there lies the tower-like fort of Kamru at an altitude of 2600 Mtrs above sea level.

An exotic Image of Lord Buddha on the Fort’s Main Gate and an Image of Kamkhya Devi are the unique features of this fort. The image of Kamkhya Devi supposed to have been brought from Assam is installed on the third floor.

The fort seems like being placed overpacking of dressed stone that acts as a pedestal for an exalted piece of art. The tower possesses an elegant wooden balcony. There are a number of interesting myths attached to this fort. This fort is ruled by 100 plus dynasties of Himachal. Other parts of the fort are restricted for general public viewing including local Kinnaur’s except Kamkhya Devi Idol which is situated near tower-like Fort.

Only ancestors of Himachal Royal families get to go further inside the fort. Virbhadra Singh, CM of Himachal Pradesh belongs to one of the royal families of Himachal visited recently to this fort for family function as informed to us by Watch-woman of Kamru Fort Chandru Negi during our visit on 19th May 2017 mornings.

Kamru fort , Baspa valley , Kinnaur
Kamru fort

Sangla Buddhist Monastery

There is a Buddhist Monastery situated in the heart of Sangla Town.  As per the monks of Monastery, this monastery is recently built and it is a very good place to meditate & relax. Don’t miss to explore this monastery of Sangla!

View of Kinner Kailash from Sangla

The back-side view of Kinner Kailash is clearly visible from Kamru Village & surroundings of Sangla where the front-side can be seen from Kalpa or Reckong Peo. This is how I captured the back-side of Kinner Kailash from the Sangla Buddhist Monastery. A classic view indeed!

Sangla Buddhist Monastery, Baspa valley, Kinnaur
Sangla Buddhist Monastery
View of Kinner Kailash from Sangla , Baspa valley , Kinnaur
View of Kinner Kailash from Sangla

Beautiful Baspa Valley

Baspa Valley belongs to the Kinnaur District of Himachal Pradesh. It lies at Indo-Tibet Border. This valley is famous for Baspa River, Rani Kanda Meadows, Dumti Meadows, Karu Devta Temple at Dumti, ITBP Camps & Check-posts, Nagdum River, Mighty Baspa Glacier, Moraine Stretches, Snowfields & Snow-slopes of Upper Baspa Valley, Gateway to many High Altitude Himalayan Treks like Lamkhaga Pass, Borasu Pass & Many more…

India’s last village – Chitkul

Chitkul is India ‘s last village from Tibet side which can be reached via Road. The distance from Sangla to Chitkul is 22 Kilometer and people throng into this place to experience the beauty of mother nature which is famous for the Snow-capped Mountains, Baspa River & Many more. Potatoes grown at Chitkul are one of the best in the world and are very costly.

Chitkul, Baspa valley , Kinnaur
Chitkul, Baspa valley , Kinnaur

Treks around Sangla 

Sangla Valley of Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh is Gateway to many High Altitude Himalayan Treks like Lamkhaga Pass, Rupin Pass, Borasu Pass & Many more. These treks can either start or end from Himachal Pradesh or Uttrakhand.

  • Lamkhaga Pass: Either Start from or end at Chitkul.
  • Sangla Kanda hike: A high mountain pasture near Sangla village
  • Rupin Pass trek: Either Start from or end at Sangla Town.
  • Borasu pass trek: Either Start from or end at Chitkul.

Final Words: Sangla Valley is a must-visit place for Adventure Seekers, Tourists & Travelers across the world. I will rate this valley 8 out of 10. Please don’t miss to explore this place if you plan an Adventure Trip around Kinnaur & Spiti. Must visit the region of Himachal Pradesh indeed!!!

Blog by  Gautham Baliga

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Kinner Kailash Parikrama Trek in Winter

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Kinnaur-Kailash Parikrama Trek

Blog by Micah Hanson

“How will you know the way, the weather is bad, there is a lot of snow,” the senior officer said. “I’ve hiked all over the Himalayas, I hiked the Pin-Paravati pass in a snowstorm,” I retorted.  “Ok, I’ll give you permission if you write a statement that you take responsibility for your safety.”   And that’s how I got the permission to hike the Kinnaur Kailash Parikarma on my own.

Although, Kinner Kailash circuit route is a traditional pilgrimage route around the sacred mountain of Kinnaur Kailash, technically foreigners are either supposed to have a group of four or be guided.

I got off to a bit of a slow start jumping on a bus to Lambar where I would start the trek with a bus driver who loved taking his time, stopping the bus and shaking hands with everyone he knew.  Then he decided he really didn’t want to finish is route so he turned around about 4 km before Thangi and 10 km before Lambar under the pretext that there was a landslide blocking the road ahead. 

There was no landslide, so much for my theory that bus drivers in India are the only government employees who do their jobs the way they are supposed to be done.  Maybe this guy had previously been a postal worker, for whatever reason he dumped me and the other passengers alongside the road.  I walked for about 15 minutes before managing to get a ride in a jeep to Lambar with some of the other locals from the bus.  After a lunch of rice and dhal in Lambar, I headed off a bit later than I would have liked. 

But not before a local advised me that not to go over the Charang La, “too much snow” he said.  “So I keep hearing,” I replied as I walk off towards the Charang La.

My map showed Charang village (my attempted destination for the day) on the north side of the river so when a bridge went to the south side of the river I stayed on the north bank about a half-hour later I passed the Indo-Tibetan Border Police checkpoint which was on the opposite side of the river. 

The men at the check post told me I had to cross the knee-deep ice-cold river to sign in.   I said they could bring the book to me but I didn’t want to walk through the icy river.  I showed my permission across the river.  After a semi audible discussion across the rushing river, one of the officers crossed to my side, a man from Meru who spoke the best English of the lot.  It turned out I was on the wrong side of the river heading to a village I wasn’t supposed to go to. 

I reluctantly crossed the river to the side of the camp.  By the time I finished tea with the officers and signed in it was about a half-hour away from darkness.  I decided I didn’t have enough time to make it to Charang.  They invited me to stay at camp for the night, an accommodation that included a nice hot meal and several glasses of whiskey and water.

Charang , Kinnaur
Charang , Kinnaur
Charang , Kinnaur
Charang , Kinnaur
Charang , Kinnaur
Mud & Stone houses of Charang , Kinnaur
Charang , Kinnaur
Sonu’s mother and daughter Archu

The following day I visited the friendly and picturesque village of Charang.  After an hour of looking around and some tea with the locals, I headed over the ridge above town up the steep-sided valley towards the Charang La.   The valley widened as I approached the snow line.  It was mid-afternoon and I decided to camp just before the snow line knowing the snowfields would be difficult to cross in the heat of the afternoon.  I found a small patch of grass and a nearby spring suitable for the purpose and pitched my tent.

Hiking towards the Charang La
Hiking towards the Charang La
Hiking towards the Charang La
Hiking towards the Charang La
Hiking towards the Charang La
Hiking towards the Charang La
Trail leading up towards the Charang La
The trail leading up towards the Charang La
View up the valley towards the Charang La
View up the valley towards the Charang La
Lalanti stream , enroute Charang - La
Lalanti stream, en route Charang – La
Hiking towards the Charang La
Hiking towards the Charang La
Upper Lalanti traverse , Enroute Charang - La
Upper Lalanti traverse, Enroute Charang – La
Hiking towards the Charang La
Hiking towards the Charang La

Early the next morning I headed out across the snow towards the pass.  I got my first view of the “pass” known as the Charang La.  I had heard the pass was difficult but this wasn’t a pass it was a cliff.  A steep snow-covered slope leads up to a notch between the mountains. 

I reached the base of the pass before noon.  Any path that had existed was completely obscured by the snow.   I decided it would be best to attempt the pass the following morning, but hiking up the steep snow-covered slope with my full pack would be extremely difficult.  I set up camp on the snow beneath the pass. I figured if I carved out a path in the afternoon it would firm up overnight making the climb much easier the following morning.  It took me two hours to climb the pass making footholds along the way.

Small lake beneath the Charang La
A small lake beneath the Charang La
Small lake beneath the Charang La
A small lake beneath the Charang La
Small lake beneath the Charang La
Small lake beneath the Charang La
Small lake beneath the Charang La
Small lake beneath the Charang La
The Charang La traverse
The Charang La traverse
My campsite on the snow beneath the Charang La
My campsite on the snow beneath the Charang La
The steep snow slope leading beneath the Charang La
The steep snow slope leading beneath the Charang La
The Charang - La Climb
The Charang – La Climb
The steep snow slope leading beneath the Charang La
The steep snow slope leading beneath the Charang La
5,266 m (17,275 ft) Charang La
5,266 m (17,275 ft) Charang La
View from the 5,266 m (17,275 ft) Charang La
View from the 5,266 m (17,275 ft) Charang La
View from the 5,266 m (17,275 ft) Charang La
View from the 5,266 m (17,275 ft) Charang La
View from the 5,266 m (17,275 ft) Charang La
View from the 5,266 m (17,275 ft) Charang La
View from the 5,266 m (17,275 ft) Charang La
View from the 5,266 m (17,275 ft) Charang La
The Baspa valley view from Charang - La
The Baspa valley view from Charang – La

While the view was great, my campsite was less than ideal, it was a cold night sleeping on snow at around 5,000 m.  Furthermore, there was no water at my campsite, but lots of snow which take a surprisingly long time to melt even in the bright sun. What water I had managed to melt was frozen by the morning.  A bigger problem was that it had entered in my shoes.  They were frozen solid and I couldn’t get my feet into them.  I had to delay my start until they had thawed out enough from the morning sun so that I could at least put them on. 

The footholds that I had made the previous day made the hike over the pass much easier.  I reached the top in about an hour loaded down with all of my gear.  I couldn’t have asked for clearer weather to enjoy the view atop the 5,266 m (17,275 ft) Charang La over the snow-covered landscape.  I spent a good hour enjoying the fruits of my effort before descending the steep slope down to the pleasant village of Chitkul four hours away.

Chitkul village fort
Chitkul fort
Ornate spout at Chitkul village
Ornate spout, Chitkul
Old fort at Chitkul
Old fort, Chitkul
Wooden grain store of people of Chitkul.
‘Urch’ – A wooden grain storage container. Almost every family has one in Chitkul and rest of the Kinnaur.
A wooden house in Chitkul village
A wooden charming house in Chitkul
A wooden temple wind chimes in Chitkul
Wooden wind chimes adorning a temple in Chitkul
View from above Chitkul
View from above Chitkul
A man from Chitkul village carrying sack of grass.
A man from Chitkul carrying a sack of grass.
A lady from Chitkul village working in her Olga fields.
A lady from Chitkul working in the Ogla(a kind of grain) fields.
People of Chitkul village
People of Chitkul
Chitkul lady carrying a child on her back
Chitkul lady carrying a child on her back
An old man from Chitkul village
An old man from Chitkul
Mountains at the head of the Baspa Valley
Mountains at the head of the Baspa Valley
Thola peak overlooking Chitkul village
Thola peak overlooking Chitkul village of Baspa Valley, Kinnaur
View from above Chitkul village
View from above Chitkul

The village of Chitkul is an idyllic place at the end of the road that winds its way up the Baspa Valley.  I would have stayed longer than the two days I spent there had I not left most of my things back in Kalpa.  In the interest of reducing weight for the trek, I had only one set of clothes with me, a set of clothes that I was anxious to change out of after 4 days of trekking.  But as it was I had time to explore the village a bit and hike up above the village before catching a bus back to Kalpa.

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Untouched Kinnaur: Rusklang village Of Ropa valley

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Untouched & Unexplored Kinnaur

Kinnaur in northeast Himachal, surrounded by Tibet in the east, is the least explored and the second least populous district, after Lahaul & Spiti, in Himachal Pradesh, India. The old Hindustan-Tibet road, the ancient Silk Route, passes through Kinnaur along the banks of Sutlej River. Kinnaur Kailash is a peak (6500 meters) in Kinnaur, considered the abode of Lord Shiva, and sacred to Hindus & Buddhists. The Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama trek is one of the toughest in the Himachal Himalayas.

Ropa stream of Kinnaur
Ropa stream. A right bank tributary of Satluj river
Rushkalang, Giabong and Sunnam villages of Ropa valley of Kinnaur
Rushkalang, Giabong and Sunnam villages of Ropa valley. Giabong village is located at lower elevation by the Ropa stream.
Kinnaur ethnic jewellery
Hand woven shawl & hand-made jewellery
Fruits laden Apple tree in Ropa valley of Kinnaur
Apple orchard in Ropa valley

Rusklang village of Ropa valley, Kinnaur 

Most of Kinnaur is inaccessible mountainous area cut-off from the rest of the world. The valleys of Sutlej, Bispa, Spiti rivers and their tributaries are some of the most gorgeous ones I’ve seen! Ropa valley near Puh/ Pooh is famous for shawl-weavers, apple orchards, and the finest metal artisans.

Kinnaur is the most tribal part of Himachal, and the people, called Kinners, have lived in isolation since thousands of years and have a strong culture, heritage & religious beliefs. They mostly follow Hinduism or Buddhism and speak a dialect of the Tibeto-Burman family known as Kinnauri and wear distinct green caps.

Old ladies of Ropa valley
Old ladies of Ropa valley, Kinnaur
Portrait of Kinnauri Lady
Portrait of Rushkalang village lady

On the banks of Ropa river is the tiny beautiful village of Rusklang. Houses, streets and almost everything made of wood and stone, apple orchards and a bunch of warm & friendly people 🙂

Streets of Rushkalang village
Village entrance

How To Wear Kinnauri Ethnic Dress: A first timers guide 😅

Walking around in the village we met a family who invited us over for tea and generously served walnuts & almonds from their crop. They even brought out the traditional Kinnauri costume they wear during festivals, for us to see! Excited to see such exotic hand-made textiles and jewelry, we asked if one of them would dress up for us, and they obliged with much more! They dressed up one of us and we all had a good laugh 🙂

Traditional Kinnauri attire & jewellery
Traditional Kinnauri attire & jewellery
Wearing traditional Kinnauri dress & Kinnaur topi(hat)
Wearing Thepang, the famed Kinnauri topi(hat), native to Kinnaur region
Wearing traditional Kinnauri dress
Wearing dhoru, the traditional Kinnauri dress
Traditional attire of Kinnauri ladies
Wearing traditional Kinnauri dress
Wearing Dohru – A Kinnauri ethnic dress

A Kinnauri traditional dress is a handwoven woolen shawl with a bright colored border, wrapped around the body with pleats at the back. A hand-stitched green jacket worn over it with the green cap and finished with traditional hand-made intricate gold and silver jewelry.

Sharing a light moment with ladies of Rushkalang
Having a chat with Kinnauri ladies
Having a chat with the village ladies
Old lady from Rushkalang village of kinnaur

Rusklang was my first experience of a village in Kinnaur. And the untouched natural scenic beauty & the heartwarming experience with the people made it a memorable one!

Dry fruits of Kinnaur
My first Kinnauri experience at Rusklang – A blog by Ritu Saini
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Delightful Charang Village

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After trekking for what seemed like most part of the day from Thangi & Lambar, we reached Charang – a delightful little village. I had no clue what lay ahead of us – the Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama!

Charang, Last village on Indo Tibetan border: 

One of the most challenging, once in a lifetime adventures I’ve had in the Himalayas. A day at Charang village and monastery was the best part of the trek, blissful!

The parikrama(circuit) of the holy Kinnaur Kailash peak starting from Charang village in Tidong valley and ending at Chitkul village of Baspa valley. Charang-La aka Charang-Chitkul pass forms the drainage divide between the Tidong & Baspa or Sangla valley of Kinnaur.

Surrounded by harsh mountains, Charang is a pretty delight.
Surrounded by harsh mountains, Charang is a pretty delight.
Charang Village in Kinnaur
Charang Village
Kinnaur is the most beautiful and least explored part of the Himalayas
Fields of Charang & a stream flowing by the village.

Kinnaur is the most beautiful and least explored part of the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh, India. Surrounded by harsh mountains, Charang is a small village of wood and mud houses at an altitude of 3500 meters in Morang, accessible only by foot, a beautiful trek through Thangi and Lambar. Less than a hundred families live in Charang and every home here has solar panels, their only source of electricity. They have been living here in this remote corner of the Himalayas, with almost no connection from the outside world. Proximity to Tibet has a Buddhist influence on the people and culture here. The PWD guest house is a great place to stay with the beautiful view of the river, chorten & the village in the distance. The gorgeous village and heart-warming people were as much a delight as the amusing kids! 🙂

A typical mud & wooden home in Charang
A typical mud & wooden home in Charang
Entrance to a house with a wall of stones with dung patties and an unusual lock
Entrance to a house with a wall of stones with dung patties and an unusual lock
A local woman outside her house
A local woman outside her house
Locals wearing the Kinnauri cap
Locals wearing the Kinnauri cap
Lush green fields in such arid mountains
Lush green fields in such arid mountains
Birds at Charang
Birds at Charang
Birds at Charang
Birds at Charang
Rats!
Rats!
These kids were a bunch of fun!
These kids were a bunch of fun!
Laughing and cracking jokes
Laughing and cracking jokes
Having fun!
Having fun!
Delightful kids at Charang
Delightful kids at Charang
A lone sweet little kid
A lone sweet little kid
Helping with the daily chores in the mountains
Helping with the daily chores in the mountains
Nuns at Charang Rangrik Monastery
Nuns at Charang Rangrik Monastery
Portraits of Nuns at Charang Rangrik Monastery
Portraits of Nuns at Charang Rangrik Monastery
The temple at Charang village
The temple at Charang village

A two-hour trek from Charang village is the ancient Rangrik Monastery – one of the most sacred and beautiful monasteries in India, in my next post.

A blog by Ritu Saini

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Charang Monastery: The most Holy temple of Kinnaur

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Charang Monastery, Kinnaur 

My first ever trek was to Kedarnath in Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand, a small town in the Garhwal Himalayas flanked by snow-covered peaks, famous for its Shiva temple. Almost a decade later when I got the opportunity to do the Kinner Kailash Parikrama trek, I was thrilled! After traveling in public transport, bikes, and cars, what I enjoy the most is to walk.

Kinner Kailash parikrama: on top of Charang La pass
Kinner Kailash parikrama: on top of Charang La pass

Beginning of the trek to Charang, from Thangi through Lambar in Morang is a moderate one; the challenge starts after crossing Lalan Ti pass all the way to Charang La pass till you reach Chitkul. It is one of the more challenging & difficult treks in the Himalayas in Himachal, once in a lifetime experience!

Charang village and chorten
Charang village and chorten

Charang is a delightful little village near the Indo-Tibet border in Kinnaur – the less explored & non-touristy part of Himachal Pradesh in India. The Kinner Kailash Parikrama is considered incomplete without receiving blessings at the ancient 11th century Charang monastery also called the Rangrik Shungma – the holiest temple of Kinnaur.

Charang monastery panorama
Charang monastery panorama

Just 2 kms from the Charang village, it’s more like a stroll on a narrow path along the river up to the monastery. And we walked leisurely, through fields surrounded by harsh rocky mountains, chatting with the friendly locals we met on the way.

Barley fields of Charang village
Heaps of Barley
Flowers of Charang village
Flowers of Charang
Donkeys on Charang monastery trail
Donkeys on Charang monastery trail
Charang monastery trail
Charang monastery trail
Tidong stream flowing below Charang
Tidong stream flowing below Charang village. ITBP has built a Helipad by the stream.

It’s a gorgeous monastery made of mud, stones, and wood but very different looking than any other I’ve visited before. Once a center of learning & worship, it has some of the oldest Buddhist texts, murals, and Thangka paintings. Brightly colored flowers manicured all around the temple complex and a room with a collection of bone and ivory knives & daggers, which only men could view!

A chorten inside Charang monastery campus
A chorten inside Charang monastery premises
Charang monastery entrance
Charang monastery entrance
Thangka painted roof of the Charang monastery
Left: Charang monastery premises Right: Thangka painted roof of the monastery
A chorten inside Charang monastery premises.
Left: A wall around Charang monastery Right: A chorten inside monastery premises.
Windows of Charang monastery
Windows of Charang monastery
Charang monastery premises
Left: Charang monastery premises Right: Charang Monastery roof
Gate of Charang monastery
Left: Gate of Charang monastery Right: Charang monastery campus
Buddhist flags fluttering in Charang
Buddhist flags fluttering over a house in Charang

Two Buddhist nuns take care of the monastery and live there; they greeted us with endless cups of butter tea! One of the nuns at the monastery was suffering from fever and chapped lips caused by the extreme cold and dry weather at that altitude. We offered her some medication and she remembered my brother! Pointing at the holy thread around his neck, as she could barely talk with her broken lips, she said, “Oh I remember you. You were here last year and had offered some medicines then too! How have you been? You are still wearing the holy thread; get a new one this time. It’s so nice to see you again!”

A Jomo(nun) of Charang monastery
A Jomo(nun) of Charang monastery(Rangrik Tungma)
Nuns of Charang monastery
Nuns of Rangrik Tungma monastery of Charang
A dog of Charang village
A cute dog of Charang village
Charang village landscape
Charang village landscape

Sipping on delicious tea amidst conversations I wondered how it would be to live in this remote little place tucked deep within the mighty Himalayas cut off from the world, with nothing but the beauty and fury of nature. And as exciting as it felt, I shivered at the thought of it. But in retrospect, I guess this thought prepared me mentally for what was ahead of us – the Kinner Kailash Parikrama! And I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity. It would be another challenging experience to visit Charang in winter, all covered in snow!

View of Charang village
View of Charang village in the distance from the monastery

This arduous trek was special in so many ways and it got even more memorable. One of my landscape images (Panorama from Charang La pass – beginning of this post) of the Kinner Kailash Parikrama Trek, adorns a center spread in the book Guge – Ages of Gold! The book is by Peter Vam Ham, a Frankfurt-based author, and photographer who has researched Himalayan culture for nearly thirty years and documented it in a dozen books to date. It showcases breathtaking views of the temple complexes, relics from the era that have survived to the present day, from both the Indian and the Tibetan side of the old Kingdom of Guge. I feel honored and it inspires me to travel more and share my stories! 🙂

Rangrik or Charang Monastery
Rangrik Tungma or Charang Monastery

Blog by: Ritu Saini

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Kinner Kailash Parikrama Trek Blog

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Kailash Circuit In Kinnaur

Kinner Kailash Parikrama in Kinnaur is one of the toughest treks in Himachal, around the holy Mount Kailash, also called Kinner Kailash in Kinnaur. It’s a 60 Km trek, which starts in Thangi through Charang, Lalan Ti, crossing Charang La pass (17,194 ft) and ends in Chitkul village – the last inhabited village accessible by road, near the Indo-Tibet border in Baspa valley of Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh.

Kinner Kailash parikrama: on top of Charang La pass
Kinner Kailash parikrama: on top of Charang La pass

Mostly done by pilgrims, it’s a difficult trek and there are no specific directions to follow, just a few stones kept on top of each other by former trekkers marks the path. There is no cellular connectivity here or any villages on the way, so unless you have a compass and a map, or a guide, you’re sure to get lost. It’s a non-touristy, difficult trek and the most difficult part is the climb up Charang La pass and ends at one of the most beautiful and remote places in Kinnaur – Chitkul village. We did the last 50 Kms of the trek starting from Lambar, near village Morang to Chitkul. It took us 6 days, a lot of courage, determination, and faith to complete the trek. It was a test of stamina, character and fitness, and a once in a lifetime experience that’ll live in our memories forever! 🙂

Here’s the Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama Trek route on Google maps

Kinnaur Kailash Circuit Trek Itinerary:

  • Day 1 – Lambar to Charang (22 Kms).
  • Day 2 – Stay at Charang village and trek to Rangrik Monastery.
  • Day 3&4 – Charang to Lalan Ti via Lalan Ti pass (15 Kms).
  • Day 5 – Lalan Ti to Charang La pass base camp (6 Kms).
  • Day 6 – Charang La pass to Chitkul village (8 Kms)

The trek from Lambar to Charang is moderate even though it is a long one. We reached Charang by evening and stayed at the PWD guesthouse for another day to acclimatize and to visit Charang village and Rangrik Shungma or Charang monastery, which is a 2-hour trek from Charang village and is considered the holiest monastery in Kinnaur. A few landscapes from the trek through Charang village to the beautiful Rangrik Monastery.

Charang village and chorten
Charang village and chorten
Trek from Charang to Rangrik Monastery
Trek from Charang to Rangrik Monastery
Charang village
Charang village
Charang village fields
Charang village fields
Trek from Charang to Rangrik Monastery
Trek from Charang to Rangrik Monastery
Trek from Charang to Rangrik Monastery
Trek from Charang to Rangrik Monastery
View from Rangrik Monastery
View from Rangrik Monastery
Rangrik or Charang Monastery
Rangrik or Charang Monastery
Charang village and chorten
Charang village and chorten
Charang village
Charang village

After a nice and peaceful day in Charang, we started the next morning to Lalan Ti and had no clue about the ordeal that lay ahead of us. The trek from here is in complete isolation. We didn’t have a guide or a compass and almost got lost just after crossing Lalan Ti pass the first day! The mountain air with less oxygen made us dizzy and we had to rest often. We re-filled our water reserves when we found a stream.

After hours of trekking through the treacherous landscape, we couldn’t see any hut next to the river, as mentioned in the resources we’d collected. With limited information about the trek and not a soul around to ask for directions, we didn’t have anything else other than the pile of stones to follow and it was getting dark.

We pitched the tent and were worried all night if we were going the right way! According to our map, we were going right – parallel to the river. So we headed in the same direction the next morning following the pile of stones – our only hope.

Camping at Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama trek
Camping at by the LalanTi stream

Climbing through massive boulder-like stones, by noon we saw finally the hut, but it was on the other side of the river! Which left us wondering again if we were supposed to be on the opposite side!

Despite the doubts, we kept following the river and reached Lalan Ti – the beautiful emerald lake. From here it took us another day to reach Charang La base camp and finally we could see Charang La pass through the binoculars!

Lalan Ti glacial lake
Lalan Ti stream source : A tributary of Tidong gad. Tidong is left side tributary of Satluj river.

We’d see the pass through the binoculars at almost every rest point as it seemed closer than it was, and that somehow gave a little more confidence and inspiration to keep walking. 😉

After we reached the Charang La base camp, we decided to trek up to the foot of the ascent to the pass, so we were closer to the most difficult part and could start the climb straight away in the morning. But after we trekked up we realized that there is no place to pitch a tent!

There was just a frozen patch of land with different sizes of loose stones around – gravel size to huge ones. We managed to spend the night somehow on a huge slanting rock, the largest we could find. The hard part of climbing the pass was still ahead of us!

Near Charang La base camp
Near Charang La base camp
View of Glacier from base camp
View of Glacier from base camp

We woke up to the view of the pass and the tiny prayer flags fluttering at the pass. This was a real test – the climb up the pass and the descent down to Chitkul village. It’s a really steep ascent with not much to hold other than gravel-like loose stones.

It’s tricky and dangerous but we reached on top of the pass by noon and that didn’t seem difficult after what we had already endured. The pass is like a ridge, no more than a few feet in width, on the other side of which is an even steeper fall!

Kinner Kailash parikrama: on top of Charang La pass
Kinner Kailash parikrama: View from top of Charang La pass

The descent to Chitkul was a never-ending walk through huge sharp stones and boulders, with no stream of water till Chitkul. We’d finished our water and the village was nowhere in sight. The sun had set and it was a matter of minutes before it became completely dark, and we had no idea how much further we had to trek. Soon our torches were out and we followed the same pile of stones that got us till here.

After a long scary trek through that terrain in the light from our torches, we reached Chitkul around 11 pm that night. I couldn’t believe that we’d finally reached and it was all over! The next morning was the most beautiful morning I’d seen ever! It felt divine to have reached Chitkul after the rigorous trek: like entering the gates to Heaven! 🙂

Heavenly Chikul
Heavenly Chikul

The trek was a kind of meditation and gave a sense of sublime, where I got to contemplate and reflect on my life. I got a fresh perspective towards life and I feel fortunate to have experienced the adventure of living in the Greater Himalayas, even though it was for a few days. It’s a divine place where the earth meets the sky and only nature rules – it’s magnificent desolation!

How To Reach Kinnaur?

The nearest railheads are Kalka & Shimla. Kalka is 300 km (10-12 hours drive) from Reckong Peo. Reckong Peo is the administrative headquarter of Kinnaur district.

If you are a foreigner, you’ll have to register and obtain an Inner line permit for the trek. For Indians, proof of identity is required which is checked at the ITBP (Indo Tibet Border Police) check post.  

It’s recommended to take a guide along for this trek and not attempt this trek on your own. Food & medical supplies need to be taken, as there is nothing but the beauty and fury of nature all the way from Charang to Chitkul!

Best Time For Kinnaur Kailash Trek?

Best months are June & September.

Blog by Ritu Saini

Categories
Blog Kinnaur Sangla valley Trek Blog Trekking

Baspa River Crossings:Nithal Campsite to Baspa glacier

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Baspa River originates near the Indo-Tibetan and Himachal-Uttarakhand border. The valley of Baspa is named after this river. It is also known as the Sangla Valley – one of the most scenic valleys in the Himachal Pradesh. The Chung Sakhago Pass lies at the head of the valley. Baspa river is fed by the perennial Chung Sakhago glacier and shares the catchment area with a tributary of the Bhagirathi river, Uttarakhand.

Baspa River Crossings

From Nithal Thach to Baspa glacier

After a cakewalk on the first two days, we geared up for adventurous things lying ahead for us. With extreme cold conditions leading to dry skin, some wheatish faces in our group had started changing to white faces coated with layers of sunscreens by the start of day 3.

Baspa river | Lamkhaga pass trek
Coated with the layers of sunscreen

After a 2km walk from our campsite, we arrived at the Karu Devta temple. Karu Devta is the presiding deity of Dumti. A small Shivling and Karu devta is present in this temple.

Karu devta temple – The presiding diety of Dumti| Lamkhaga pass trek
Karu devta temple – The presiding diety of Dumti

Happy ji was telling us that even ITBP had been following the traditions and practices of locals to offer a prasad in this temple every morning before starting to cook for that day. He added that if any villager is taking his goat or sheep beyond this point, the villager would sacrifice one of his goats/sheep here before proceeding further.

Lamkhaga pass trek
Offering prayers at the Karu Devta temple

The trail beyond Dumti had given us some wallpaper views, however, the reality hit me as we stepped into the rocky trails. A mild pain had started in my ankle after we crossed the flat surfaces and started walking into the rock patches. However, it was very mild pain and I was confident of finishing off the day’s walk and was hoping for late-night magic for much steeper ascents waiting for us near the Lamkhaga pass trek.

Lamkhaga pass trek
Stepping into the rocky trails

We came across herds of thick-skinned cows chilling out and grazing in the valleys of snow-capped peaks. The cows that had been left near Nagasthi had traveled to this point.

Lamkhaga pass trek
Time to relax after a long walk

Happy ji was telling us that the thick-skinned cows cannot survive the slightly hot weather after winters, hence it’s left to graze on its own in the high hills for 3 to 4 months.

Lamkhaga pass trek
Thick skinned cows chilling out in the valleys of snow capped peaks

He added that the villagers manage their living with one cow for a few months till the winter and would go on search of the herd during the beginning of winter. It was interesting to hear from him that no wild animals roamed in this part of Kinnaur and the herd of cows left to graze here would usually be found in its full count by the villagers.

Lamkhaga pass trek
Some serious discussion about the village life & cattle while waiting for the team to regroup

We were also joined in the trail by ITBP jawans who had to camp at Nithal tach. The ITBP jawans were reminding us every now and then to hydrate ourselves, protect ourselves with the monkeys’ caps instead of exposing our ears to the heavy winds of these hills in our yet another long walk along the river. And, there started the second round of conversations with ITBP jawans.

Lamkhaga pass trek
Juice, conversations, and selfies with ITBP Jawans

From current affairs to experience in the Indian army, we had talked about almost everything that had flashed into our minds then. Then the conversation drifted to Gundar Nala crossing that lay ahead of Nithal Tach. ITBP jawans passed us some energy drinks to us and we had stopped for a short break. The commander of Dumti started describing how the ITBP personnel crosses the Gundar Nala if the situation demands them to do so. He said every time when someone in ITBP needed to reach Gundar, they would apply mustard oil all over their body, walk through the super cold waters and then cross it as the water level may sometimes even reach their shoulders.

Porters of Lamkhaga team(Raacho Trekkers) marching towards Nithal
Porters of Lamkhaga team(Raacho Trekkers) marching towards Nithal

With our trek happening in the last week of May, he added that we might just get a little lucky as water levels may not be that high in May. Having had a long break here, it was time to move ahead.

Yamrang peaks – The beginning of the Indo-Tibet border | Lamkhaga pass trek
Yamrang peaks – The beginning of the Indo-Tibet border

After a walk of a few minutes, the Yamrang peaks were just in front of us. After an uneven patch, we had finally come down to the valley and the flat river beds greeted us. Time just flew away as we walked along the river bed hearing out the adventures of few ITBP jawans.

Lamkhaga pass trek
Soaking up the sight and enjoying every moment in the valley
Snow time near Nithal Thach
Snow time near Nithal Thach

It started to snow as we were just a few minutes behind Nithal. Few of us moving in the mountain trail with ITBP could see the dwarfed figures of the rest of our trek group crossing the Dumti meadows from a slightly higher inclination. Nature keeps reminding us that humans and their problems are so tiny in front of Mother Nature. However, despite our tiny size, we, humans continue to use too many of our natural resources at an alarming pace ignoring the warning signs from every other natural disaster.

Team Lamkhaga of Raacho Trekkers walking along the Nithal nadi
Team Lamkhaga of Raacho Trekkers walking along the Nithal nadi

Cheerfully schlepping our groceries, tents and sleeping bags, few porters got past us in the mild snow as they had to rush through and set up the campsite before the weather becomes worse.

Lamkhaga pass trek expedition
Porters, the overlooked guardian angels of a mountain expedition

Camping in high hills, far far away from the human habitation and yet experiencing the luxury of tasty cooked food and some good sleep in thick sleeping bags/tents is an inevitable dream without the support of the porters, who carry heavy loads of groceries and other items just for a few hundred rupees a day. The physical support provided by the porters to fulfill the dreams of a few trekkers despite the challenging weather conditions is often overlooked. They are the indisputable guardian angels of a mountain expedition.

Moderate snow showers in Nithal ITBP campsite [Lamkhaga pass trek]]
Moderate snow showers in Nithal ITBP campsite
Our trek group had our lunch amidst the mild snow in Nithal, while Sonu Negi ji was helping the porters cross the river beyond Nithal. It was the same sight that the commander of Dumti had described us. From the top, we could see the porters removing their layers and crossing the river with the luggage on top of their heads.

Heading towards the Gundar nala[Lamkhaga pass trek]
Heading towards the Gundar nala
Just after the snow intensified, the commander of Dumti came to us and announced that they have worked out a jugaad for us to cross the river. As he had to immediately head back to Dumti, we bid him goodbye with some final handshakes and wondered what was in store at the river crossing.

Baspa river trek
The river crossings from Nithal to Gundar
Baspa river chitkul
Crossing bridge over Gundar stream ( Tributary of Baspa river )

Luckily, the water levels in the spot chosen for us to cross the Gundar nala wasn’t that high as we had imagined. After hopping through a stretch of rocks and crossing a proper bridge, we were standing in front of the two more water crossing points.

Baspa river trek
Our time to cross the gundar nala with ITBP ladders

Water was flowing in its full force. Happy ji and some more support staff brought a ladder and positioned it for us to cross the river. We realized this was the jugaad that the commander of Dumti had mentioned to us back in Nithal.

With the ladder in its position, it was time for an initial load test. Happy ji and a support staff hopped and jumped crazily over the ladder to check if it could withstand our weight. Chetan Phalke from our group captured a small part of Happy ji’s crazy hoping to reach the other side.

Then, it was our time to cross the river with the ladders. With the first one done with ease, we had one more water crossing lying ahead.

There hasn’t been a day that has passed without me lamenting to people on my inability to put on weight despite my hearty appetite. However, my less weight proves to be a great blessing when it comes to climbing or jumping over boulders and rocks. This time a river crossing with a ladder was done and dusted with ease :)

Gundar Campsite - Lamkhaga pass
Campsite at Gundar

After the river crossing and some slow walk along with the uneven patches, we finally arrived at the Gundar campsite. The ankle pain had intensified on the third day and reduced my pace. After campfire and a tasty dinner, it was time to hit the bed.

Gundar - Lamkhaga pass
Clear skies in Gundar on day 4

In every walk of nature, we receive far more than what we seek. We have blessed with some mesmerizing views of snow-peaked mountains as we hopped over some more rocks to cross the rivers.

Baspa river Chitkul
More and more river crossings beyond Gundar

The trails had turned uneven after Nithal and we came to a screeching halt near the Baspa river crossing, about 2 km from Gundar. We had to cross the river to get to the other side and about 3 feet of water was flowing in its full force. A walk in the super cold water was on the cards.

Baspa river trek- Baspa glacier
Group near the Baspa glacier
Baspa river trek
The majestic Baspa glacier snout. Baspa river that flows through Sangla valley originates from here. Baspa is a left-side tributary of the Satluj river.

First Gautham ji and Kohinoor removed off some of their layers and went to the other side. Then, Happy and Rajeev along with three of us held each other’s hands and we formed a chain and crossed the river. Thanks to the lovely capture by Gautham ji (view video in above FB post), this memory (me, Chetan and Hiren crossing Baspa river) is as fresh as it just happened yesterday.

Towards basecamp of Lamkhaga pass
Inching closer to the lower basecamp of Lamkhaga pass
Rajeev giving us demo on how to slide down in snow in Lamkhaga lower basecamp
Rajeev giving us demostration on how to slide down in the snow in Lamkhaga lower base camp

After some hiking beyond the Baspa glacier, we had finally reached the lower basecamp of Lamkhaga pass by 12 noon.

After a long halt of lunch and some tutorials from Happy and Rajeev on snow sliding, we moved further ahead. With a major part of the day still left, it was indeed a sensible decision to skip camping in the lower basecamp and go further ahead. The path beyond Baspa glacier has been steep and the path ahead wasn’t going to be an easy hike.

The trails beyond the Lamkhaga lower basecamp
The trails beyond the Lamkhaga lower basecamp

With the legs washing off my pain killers, my legs literally went on a toss walking over the rocks and uneven surface. The treacherous uphill climb was like adding fuel to fire to an exhausted and injured ankle.

Lamkhaga base camp
The zombie walk beyond lower base camp

But I wasn’t the only one doing the zombie walk. Almost the entire group had become tired few meters up. It was like a never-ending hike.

Climb to Lamkhaga lower base camp
The never-ending hike beyond Lamkhaga lower base camp. Image credits: Aditya Prabakarn

All of us in the group had become completely exhausted. We were counting our steps and taking a break after every 30 to 50 steps. We had been walking, and walking.. and walking.. but the campsite was nowhere near sight. The thought of hiking up with an injured ankle is always easier said than done. With ankle pain turning deadly with every step, I was unsure if I could even make it to the campsite and just hoped I don’t crash or faint somewhere in the snow.

Know the altitudes:

Chitkul Village 3450m  Gundar 4050m
Lamkhaga lower basecamp 4400m

Blog by Sandhya Sourirajan

Categories
Blog Chitkul village Kinnaur Trek Blog Trekking

Lamkhaga Pass Trek Expedition – Chitkul to Dumti

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Chitkul to Dumti Trek blog

Lamkhaga Pass Trek: Day 1 & 2  

It was 20th May 2017, and as per schedule 10 of us were to start for the Lamkhaga pass trek from Chitkul village in the morning after our breakfast. Even before the beginning of the Lamkhaga pass trek, I had got an adventurous start for the trek in Chitkul.

The awesome trio from Raacho Trekkers, who made the Lamkhaga Pass trek a memorable trip for each one of us in the group. Sonu Negi (Trek Lead), Happy Negi (Leader/Sweeper), Rajeev Negi (Leader/Sweeper). Image credits: Gautam Baliga (www.bgbaligatraveldiary.com)
The awesome trio from Raacho Trekkers, who made the Lamkhaga Pass trek a memorable trip for each one of us in the group. Sonu Negi (Trek Lead), Happy Negi (Leader/Sweeper), Rajeev Negi (Leader/Sweeper). Image credits: Gautam Baliga (www.bgbaligatraveldiary.com)

Back in our room early morning that day, Gautam ji and Aashish had motivated me not to quit the trek in haste and that they would try to support me and keep me moving throughout the trek. Thanks to the encouragement provided by all my 9 fellow trekkers and some timely medical help from Kohinoor Indrani (the engineer turned pharmacist in our group), I was finally able to make up my mind and go ahead with the trek with a crepe bandage & painkillers.

Briefing by Sonu Negi in Chitkul. Image credits: Kohinoor
Briefing by Sonu Negi in Chitkul. Image credits: Kohinoor

Though I was trying to appear normal, I could hardly take a few steps. A nervous Sonu Negi ji, who had discussed the condition of my leg multiple times with Gautham ji, was hoping that all goes well throughout the trek. After a briefing by Sonu Negi ji following our breakfast, we started hiking up and within a few minutes, Chitkul was out of sight.

The fairly flat walk in the jeep trail along a frisky Baspa river

 

The fairly flat walk in the jeep trail along a frisky Baspa river

We followed the frisky Baspa river in our gradual ascent beyond Chitkul along a fairly flat walk in the jeep trail to ITBP checkpost.

We ambled past the pine trees and the cedar trees to get the feel of nature
We ambled past the pine trees and the cedar trees to get the feel of nature

With the exception of the few army vehicles and cowherds passing by, there were hardly any tourists in the trail beyond Chitkul. 4 km from Chitkul, we were greeted by well-built army personnel from Himachal with a huge moustache. We had reached the Nagasthi check-post and halted there for a few minutes to show our permits to move further.

The crooked and the winding trails lead to the most amazing views
The crooked and the winding trails lead to the most amazing views

The Himachali general who had served 15+ years was astonished to notice a woman trekker in the group of 22. He happily shared his views on how many women have started scaling the challenging peaks like Everest and are becoming on par with men in most of the fields. He shook hands with all of us to meet again in Dumti the next day. Sometimes the mere company of our jawans and a few pats from them are enough to recharge us to continue further.

We moved along the meandering paths watching the thick skinned cows that were left to graze in the valleys. Image credits: Aditya Prabakaran
We moved along the meandering paths watching the thick-skinned cows that were left to graze in the valleys. Image credits: Aditya Prabakaran

The so-called Indo-Tibet border starts from Nagasthi and extends for 100+ km along with the Yamrang ranges. Civilians are not allowed beyond this point. Due to security reasons, photography is not allowed nearby ITBP checkpoints or in the army camp zone.

Approaching Nagasthi ITBP checkpost
Approaching Nagasthi ITBP checkpost

Kohinoor, who carried the heaviest bag amongst all of us with a lot of medicines & homemade food for the entire group, gave some generous amount of the tasty homemade rotis to our group and the army personnel there. The homemade food would have been a great change for the ITBP jawans, who survive on the packed food most of the times. After a short rest in Nagasthi, we moved towards Ranikanda.

Day 1 campsite in Ranikanda at 3700m
Day 1 campsite in Ranikanda at 3700m

A couple of hours beyond Nagasthi, we were greeted by our porters who passed on some snacks and an energy drink. And after an hour’s walk, we were finally in Ranikanda, welcomed with some hot lunch to feast into.

River crossing in Ranikanda campsite.
River crossing in Ranikanda campsite.

After a short rest in our tents, few of them suggested an acclimatization hike, and so 9 of us started ascending up a nearby hill. It was a steep ascent of 100 metres and it took close to 45 minutes to reach the top. After Aashish, who had diverted to the other side of the stream finally reached the top, it was time for the group pics.

Nearing the stream after a steep hike
Nearing the stream after a steep hike

There is no more rewarding feeling than being among the first few to reach and explore a destination that others haven’t yet had the pleasure of witnessing. After enjoying the virgin beauty of the valley from the top and some chit-chats for an hour, it was time to descend down.

The most amazing views come after the hardest climbs
The most amazing views come after the hardest climbs

We descended amidst some really heavy winds. At least, I was not the last one to get down this time. Niren who had ascended so quickly was telling me that descents were his weakness. The hot soup waiting for us in our dining tent was our motivation to rush back to the campsite.
With some more time left for the dinner, Kohinoor got his pulse oximeter and we were having some fun time testing it out and measuring the oxygen levels of all of us. It showed my reading as 87, so Kohinoor suggested to take a deep breath and take the reading once again. This time it reduced further. Since everything was appearing normal, we didn’t bother much about it. After this incident, the oximeter was packed up and never taken out for the rest of the trek.

Bird’s eye view of our Ranikanda campsite
Bird’s eye view of our Ranikanda campsite

After some hot paranthas with Govardhan ghee for dinner, it was time to settle down in our own tents. Aditya, who was particularly looking for a tent with people who don’t snore, slept with Gautham & Aashish. Aditya had to quit his Lamkhaga pass trek in Dumti (in 2015) due to altitude sickness, however, he finished off the 2017 Lamkhaga pass without any issues. His brisk walk on all the seven days is probably attributed to his sound sleep and his tent partners. Now, we know that the choice of tent partners also impacts the completion of an expedition. Jokes apart, the rock-solid determination of each of the ten trekkers in the team and favourable weather conditions played a major role in the successful completion of this trek.

One of the beautiful memories of Lamkhaga Pass trek was sharing the trails with the ITBP jawans, who were setting up their checkposts for that season
One of the beautiful memories of Lamkhaga Pass trek was sharing the trails with the ITBP jawans, who were setting up their checkposts for that season

After a good breakfast in the morning, we started our trek around 8 am. After the oximeter readings, Vivek had suggested me to have 4 to 5 litres of water for proper acclimatization and the aftereffects of drinking loads of water were showing up while walking along the trails. We could see the ITBP jawans, the communication engineers and the mule herders making their way to Dumti to set up their checkpoints.

Wonderful company of the ITBP in the walk from Ranikanda to Nithaltach
Wonderful company of the ITBP in the walk from Ranikanda to Nithaltach

The walk with ITBP jawans made me realize how thankful we Indians are, to have a defence force, who give up their families and a comfortable life to guard our borders, while we sleep peacefully. Though the Tibet border beyond Chitkul is considered a friendly border without interruptions, the high altitude and the unpredictable weather conditions don’t add up to an easy daily routine.

Ranikanda to Nithaltach – A walk to remember. Image credits: Kohinoor
Ranikanda to Nithaltach – A walk to remember. Image credits: Kohinoor

The ITBP jawans walking with 40kg backpacks and heavy rifles heard out from us on why a frustrating city job requires a long break in mountains, and we got to hear from them on how badly they miss their families, the tasty home food and the luxuries of city life. They thanked us for the tasty homemade food provided by our team (obviously the credit goes to Kohinoor) and invited some of us for having Chole bature for dinner in Dumti campsite. We realized that walking the entire stretch of 14kms with ITBP is a tough row to hoe. With some handshakes to meet soon in Dumti, the forces moved ahead at a fast pace.

A long power nap while waiting for our porters to bring the camp equipments
A long power nap while waiting for our porters to bring the camp equipments

At regular intervals, Happy Negi ji kept reminding us to slow down as he felt all of us were going at a rapid pace. After some sauntering and enjoying our walk along the meandering paths, we stopped for our lunch a few minutes before the Dumti campsite.

Since the porters were behind, we had to wait for them to get past us with the tents. After reaching Dumti, we were told that the tea would be served only after offering prayers to the Karu Devta temple, about 2.5 ahead of the Dumti campsite. As the ritual goes, cooking in Dumti campsite starts only after offering the cooked prasad to the Karu Devta, and for years together, ITBP has been following the tradition introduced by the locals. Happy Negi ji, Baliga and few others went to the Karu Devta temple for the prayers as we settled down in the campsite.

A thin blanket of snow covered the campsite just a few minutes after we settled into our tents
A thin blanket of snow covered the campsite just a few minutes after we settled into our tents

Mild snow showers started as we were sipping the hot tea in our dining tent and we rushed back to our tents to give space for the porters and support staff in the dining tent. The snow continued for about an hour. When I came out of my single person tent at 7pm in the evening, a thin blanket of snow had covered the campsite and the views were amazing.

The amazing view of the Dumti campsite at 7pm in the evening
The amazing view of the Dumti campsite at 7pm in the evening

The conversations of the Pune group were the only sounds that could be heard in the silent and the peaceful Dumti campsite. With a long time left for dinner, I joined them for some intense card games. Abhinav, the master strategist was winning most of the games and he gave us little chance for us do work out our tricks. Finally, with Happy Negi ji calling us for our dinner, it was time to wrap up our game.

The game of theen patti at 12,000 feet
The game of theen patti at 12,000 feet

After a tasty dinner, Sonu Negi updated us that after two days of easy walk, we might be greeted with rocky terrain and some challenging river crossing the next day. It was evident from his briefing that some adventures were waiting for us on day 3.

Know the altitudes:
Chitkul – 3435m
Nagasthi – 3480m
Ranikanda – 3700m
Dumti – 4050m

A blog by Sandhya Sourirajan

Categories
Blog Chitkul village Trekking

Scenic Chitkul: Last Frontier Village Of Himachal Pradesh

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The signboard read “हिंदुस्तान का आखरी ढाबा” (The last dhaba of Hindostan) as we reached Chitkul after witnessing some amazing views of Sangla village and exploring the trail to Chitkul village beside the Baspa river.

Chitkul, The Last Village of Sangla valley, Kinnaur

Kinnaur, the land of the mythological Kinnauras is almost divided in half by the Sutlej/Satluj River. Due to its geographical setting, Kinnaur has two distinct climatic zones – the wet and the arid.

Elevation (meters):3450
Location:Baspa valley, Kinnaur
Best time to visit:May to October
Attractions:Baspa river, Chitkul Mata Temple Ranikanda & Dumti
Treks/Hikes around Chitkul:Lamkhaga pass trek, Trek to origin or Baspa river, Borasu pass trek, Ranikanda meadows hike, Dumti meadows hike, and Nagasti camp trail
Chitkul Highlights

Only the area south of the Great Himalaya (Sutlej & Baspa valley) receives monsoon rains.

In the upper reaches of the district, the monsoon showers progressively decrease and one can notice the beginning of the completely arid zone from Spillo and Kanum village.

Chitkul is located in the wet climatic zone of the Kinnaur district. The road to Chitkul village diverges from Karcham–a small town on National Highway 5– that is around 180 km from the state capital Shimla.

The winding road along the Baspa river is pothole-ridden & narrow. There are two landslides zones, one near the Karcham dam and second at Rutrang, just below the Sangla town.

During the rainy season(July-August), the valley turns foggy, reducing the visibility & falling boulders makes driving dangerous through the landslide zones.

The 22km journey from Sangla village to Chitkul is nothing short of a roller coaster ride when it’s done with HRTC buses, thanks to the bumpy pathways.

Chitkul Village

Chitkul found its place in the limelight when the people got to know that it is the last village of Himachal Pradesh & Kinnaur as well. The last doesn’t mean there is no human settlement beyond Chitkul. There are two ITBP posts, first at Nagasti which is around 2 kilometers from Chitkul and the second one at Dumti which is around 7 kilometers from Chitkul on Indo- Tiber border.

With a lot of tourists flocking this village every day, it isn’t the same remote and peaceful village it used to be several years back as a lot of commercial guest houses and eateries have come in here.

Though Chitkul is a lovely place, it’s the first view that may seem to a dampener after Sangla and Kamru in terms of natural beauty after all the buzz about Chitkul. Some irresponsible tourism and rampant construction have made this village a thriving business for a few.

Chitkul , Kinnaur
The dhaba was nowhere to be seen, but the board still remains. Aashish, me and Anand couldn’t resist a selfie with this popular board.

After reaching Chitkul, we met the Lamkhaga pass group with Happy Negi, Rajiv, and Sonu Negi and checked into a guest house.

We were ten trekkers and the plan was to start the Lamkhaga pass trek the next day from Chitkul. The group of five from Pune had booked a SUV from Chandigarh and reached Chitkul a few hours before us. Kohinoor and Hiren from the group were telling me how calm and serene Chitkul used to be two years back when they both had come here during a bike trip. Aditya from Bangalore had reached Chitkul two days prior to the trek for better acclimatization. Anand had rested for a day in Kalpa before boarding the bus from Reckong Peo to Chitkul, and we had met Anand on the bus that we had boarded from Sangla to Chitkul.

The Mathi devi temple in Chitkul is said to be the last point of the Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama
The Mathi devi temple in Chitkul is said to be the last point of the Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama

After lunch and some rest, the five-member Pune group decided to hike up a few kms for their acclimatization walk till the ITBP check post, while Anand, Gautham, Aashish and I were out to explore Chitkul, starting with the Mathi devi temple.

There is some marvellous wooden art in Mathi devi temple. But the traditional Kinnauri stone roofs have been replaced with sheets in the newer constructions.
There is some marvelous wooden art in Mathi devi temple. But the traditional Kinnauri stone roofs have been replaced with sheets in the newer constructions.

We reached the Mathi devi temple to find two small kids– Anirudh and Rishabh. Anirudh, with all his childish innocence, was telling Rishabh how Katappa had killed Bahubali in part 1 and the revenge that had followed on part 2. With the Bahubali fever gripping the entire nation in May (Bahubali part 2 had released in May 2017), I could never imagine that it’s waves would have reached the last village of India. This was one of the cutest memories I can recall from my Chitkul visit as Anirudh in all his innocence narrated a few scenes to his friend. Probably for the first time in my life, I felt motivated to go and watch a masala movie the way Anirudh had described it.

Anirudh and Rishabh, who had returned to their home for vacations show me their home and every nook and corner of Chitkul village
Anirudh and Rishabh, who had returned to their home for vacations show me their home and every nook and corner of Chitkul village

After a quick introduction, Anirudh and Rishabh become our tour guides for Chitkul. They proudly announced to their family members on the way that they have made friends with tourists and are taking them around. The children took us to two more temples which according to them had some more statues, but the temples were closed. Nevertheless, we had a great time there playing and clicking pictures with some more kids in the temple corridor. After some time, the kids took me around the village and though there was nothing much in the village, I ended up seeing their homes, post office and meeting more kids in playgrounds. Then we reached the spot where a lot of children were playing cricket and an excited Anirudh joined them for fielding.

Every valley has its own jugaad to find a pitch for playing cricket
Every valley has its own jugaad to find a pitch for playing cricket

While Aashish and Anand were playing there, Anirudh and Rishabh took me to the nearby playground where more kids were playing volleyball. After some 10-15 minutes in this place, the most unexpected thing happened and I ended up twisting my ankle during the volleyball game. With a strenuous 100km Lamkhaga Pass trek setting to start the next day, I was just hoping that this ankle sprain doesn’t turn out to be a show stopper and some kind of magic happens before the trek.

The view of Baspa river in the backdrop of the snow capped peaks was beyond words
The view of Baspa river in the backdrop of the snow-capped peaks was beyond words

In an attempt to keep things moving, Anand and Aashish tried convincing me that the pain must subside in a while and that we could just move around the valley. So we moved towards the Baspa river and were joined by Gautam there. After 10-15 minutes of limping, I finally managed to reach the Baspa river. The views from this spot were beyond amazing. After some more time there, I decided to give some rest to my ankles and limp back to my guest house. The rest of the day went by as the people in the guest house tried out all possible things from hot water massage, few drops of kerosene to mustard oil massage to get my legs back to shape and to prevent swelling in my ankles.

The view from the Baspa valley
The view from the Baspa valley

The night just went by. It was 20th May 2017, and as per schedule 10 of us were to start for the Lamkhaga pass trek from Chitkul in the morning after our breakfast. I woke up that day with an even more painful ankle. Thanks to the encouragement provided by Gautam ji and timely medicines by our group pharmacist Kohinoor Indrani, I was able to make up my mind to go ahead with the trek with a crepe bandage and some painkillers. After breakfast in Chitkul, we finally moved further up and in a few minutes, Chitkul was out of our view.

The valley views from the top of Chitkul
The valley views from the top of Chitkul

The sojourn in Chitkul will stay in my memory for a long time. The time spent with the kids, the mesmerizing views near the Baspa river, badly twisting my ankle and finding the encouragement and support to move ahead with a strenuous trek are few memories that I would cherish throughout my lifetime.

Chitkul has become a thriving business for many commercial establishments
Chitkul has become a thriving business for many commercial establishments

Chitkul is a tiny hamlet set in scenic surroundings. If you are visiting this place while touring around Kinnaur, leave behind only your footsteps here, and not the plastics or your garbage footprints. Irresponsible tourism and rampant commercialization have resulted in mountains of plastics in these remote villages of Kinnaur, which lack the facilities to recycle or process the non-biodegradable waste. Do your bit for the environment by carrying back any non-biodegradable waste along with you instead of littering them in these hills, alongside appreciating the scenic beauty of our “Incredible India”.

Chitkul in different seasons:

The wide U-shaped valley of Baspa offers a panorama of the colored landscape in different seasons. In August and September month the valley appears a green oasis in desolate Kinnaur region.

The Nagasthi ITBP post - Baspa valley in September
The Nagasthi ITBP post – Baspa Valley in September
The Birch tree logs. Its is a tree native to the Himalayas, growing at elevations up to 4,500 m. The white, paper-like bark of the tree was used in ancient times for writing Sanskrit scriptures and texts.
The Birch tree logs. It’s is a tree native to the Himalayas, growing at elevations up to 4,500 m. The white, paper-like bark of the tree was used in ancient times for writing Sanskrit scriptures and texts.
Autumn landscape of Baspa valley, Chitkul. Picture taken in the October month.
Autumn landscape of Baspa valley, Chitkul. The picture was taken in the October month.
Monsoon in Baspa valley, Chikul in August month
Monsoon in Baspa valley, Chitkul. The picture was taken in August month
Muddy waters of Baspa river, Chitkul
Muddy waters of Baspa river, Chitkul

What are the must-see places to visit in Chitkul?

Chitkul is the last Indian habitation beyond which lay sheer wilderness. There are plenty of activities to do and a few places to visit. Major places of interest in and around Chitkul are Chitkul Mata temple, Chitkul fort, Buddhist temple, and Old houses in Chitkul village. There are many trekking & hiking routes leading from Chitkul village towards the Indo-Tibet border & Kinnaur-Garhwal border. The following are easy hiking trails in Chitkul

  • Chitkul-Rakcham-Batseri village trail: It is an easy 3-4 hours hike along the Baspa river. The route is well marked and easy to follow.
  • Chitkul-Nagasti hike: It is an hour walk beyond Chitkul village. The route passes through the fields of people of Chitkul. There is an ITBP post at Nagasti. Entry beyond this point is restricted.
  • Baspa river trail: Ater crossing a bridge built across Baspa river below Chitkul, a trail takes you along the Baspa river.
  • Ranikanda meadows hike: Ranikanda meadows are high altitude mountain meadows located around 10 km beyond Chitkul village & Nagasti ITBP post. This place is the first-day campsite of Lamkhaga pass trek route. The entry is restricted and you need to take permission from local authorities to pass through ITBP Nagasti post.

How do I get to Chitkul from Delhi?

Below is the approach route for Chitkul: Delhi⇒ Shimla ⇒ Kufri ⇒ Narkanda ⇒ Rampur Bushahr ⇒ Karcham ⇒ Sangla ⇒ Rakcham ⇒ Chitkul. Shimla to Karcham route is on National Highway 5. From Karcham you need to take the right turn over the Karcham bridge to crossover into the Sangla valley.

Public transport: Direct buses to Sangla are available from Delhi, Chandigarh, and Shimla.

How far is Chitkul from Delhi?

Chitkul is around 590 kilometers from Delhi and the travel through public transport may take 15 to 16 hours depending on the road and weather conditions.

When does it snow in Chitkul?

Winter season starts from late October or early November. The chances of snowfall in the Chitkul region are high after November month. However, this region has witnessed snowfall as early as the first week of October as well. I would recommend late December to early March is the best time to witness the magic of snowfall in Chitkul village.

Would the road to Chitkul be open in December month?

Normally the road to Chitkul remains open during December. In case, there is heavy snowfall, the road may get blocked for 3-4 days.  It is advised to confirm the road status before planning travel to the valley. You can get the latest information by calling the helpline numbers of the district administration

Highlights:

  • Mathi devi mandir
  • Baspa valley and river view
  • Ranikanda Meadows
  • Baspa riverfront

Blog: by Sandhya Sourirajan

FAQs about Chitkul village

December to March is the best time and season to witness snowfall and see the snow-covered mountains of the Baspa Valley. June to September is a perfect time to see the valley in full bloom and greenery. Normally, the Baspa Valley has more precipitation than the rest of Kinnaur. The more rainfall than the rest of Kinnaur has a bearing on the topography and the landscape. Baspa Valley is also known as the green oasis of Kinnaur, and its meadows and forests are revered by locals and travelers alike.

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There are many hotels, homestays, and camps in Chitkul where you can get budget accommodation. Some of them are Zostel Chitkul & The Wanderer’s Nest. We can get you the best deals. Contact us!

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There are many trekking routes leading from Chitkul village. The following mountain passes on the Kinnaur-Garhwal Himalayan range are high altitude crossover to Uttarakhand state.

  • Lamkhaga Pass trek 
  • Borasu Pass trek 
  • Chitkul- Rackcham trail 
  • Chitkul – Nagasti trail: An easy an hour ramble to Nasgasti ITBP post by the fields of Chitkul villagers.  
  • Charang – La Pass trek (Due to religious aspect attached to trek route,  the parikrama or circumambulation of Kinnaur Kailash peak starts from Charang village but the trek is doable from Chitkul also). 
  • Chitkul – Ranikanda hike: Ranikanda is an extensive stretch of mountain meadows on the left bank of Baspa river. It was, and still, it is the camping/halting site for the shepherds of Harsil and Kinnaur. The ITBP(Indo-Tibet Border Police) has built a road connecting Ranikanda to Chitkul however the movement of the vehicles is restricted. Around 3 hours of leisurely walk will take you to the meadows of Ranikanda.  

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The snowfall or winter season in Chitkul starts in early December(sometimes Chitkul gets snow even in November) and ends in early March. Occasionally the snowfall season gets stretched to the April month. Heavy snowfall often snaps road connectivity to Chitkul during the March month. The local administration and ITBP personal at Mastrang(near Rackcham) employ snow cutters & excavators to keep the traffic moving. Ping us to get the latest connectivity status.

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Bewitching Baspa valley, Beautiful birch, and pristine pine forests, stark azure skies, leisure walk by the murmuring Baspa river, hiking trails around Chitkul, and gentle rolling meadows of Ranikanda makes Chitkul worth visiting.

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Chitkul is connected to the rest of the world by a connecting road(Karcham-Sangla-Chitkul road). The connecting road from Karcham(located on National Highway-05) has many spots where landslips and falling boulders often cause recurring disruption which could last for many days( sometimes even for weeks!). Early snowfall in December month often snaps road connectivity to Chitkul. The local administration and ITBP personal at Mastrang(near Rackcham) employ snow cutters & excavators to keep the traffic moving. Ping us to get the latest connectivity status.   

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Chitkul village is situated in the south-eastern part of Himachal Pradesh. The village is around 250 kilometers far from the state capital, Shimla.

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The last frontier village on the Indo-Tibetan border, Chitkul is often regarded as ‘the jewel of the Baspa valley‘. The English traveler and explorer Captain Alexander Gerard once proclaimed the Baspa valley the most spectacular of the Himalayan valleys. Chitkul is separated from Uttarakhand by the Kinnaur-Garhwal Himalayan range. The two most iconic landmarks of Chitkul are the Thola peak (P6565) and the Baspa river. The peak of Thola is prominently visible above the landscape of the village. The river Baspa, which gives its name to the valley, in its upper course, rolls effortlessly on pebbles with a soft murmur. Chitkul & Sangla was once the focal point of the traders and shepherds of Garhwal & Tons Valley. The numerous shepherds’ trails leading from Chitkul make it a backpackers and trekkers’ paradise.

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HRTC and some private operators run buses on the Reckong Peo to Chitkul route. The departure time for the HRTC bus from Reckong Peo is 9:15 a.m. It takes about 4 hours to cover a distance of about 60 km (from the Reckong Peo bus stop to Chitkul). Another bus departs from the Reckong bus stop at 12:05 p.m. You can also get a taxi from the Reckong Peo taxi stop at a fair price.

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By Road: A few ordinary (non-AC) Himachal State Transport (HRTC)buses depart late at night from the ISBT Kashmiri Gate. You can take a straight bus from Delhi to Sangla that leaves at 10 p.m. from Kashmiri Gate and drops you off at Sangla the next day at around 3:30 p.m.

The last bus from Sangla to Chitkul departs at 4:30 p.m. and takes almost an hour to cover a distance of 18 kilometers between Sangla and Chitkul. You can also hitchhike quite effortlessly on this route, or you can also get a taxi. You can also take a more comfortable route by taking a Volvo or AC bus to Shimla and taking a 7 or 8 AM ordinary bus from ISBT Tutikandi Shimla to Sangla.

By Air: Nearest Airport is Jubbarhatti, Shimla.  Air India’s weekly flight departs from Delhi airport at 7:50 AM.

By Train: The nearest railway station is Shimla. The following is the departure schedule from Kalka. 

Train Name & NumberDeparture from KalkaDurationArrival at Shimla
Kalka Shimla Special/52445           07:005h 55m        12:55
Kalka Shimla Passenger/52457           03:305h 25m        08:55
Himalayan Queen/52455           12:105h 20m       17:30
Kalka Simla Express/52453           06:205h 15m       11:35
Shivalik DLX Express/52451           05:454h 50m       10:35
Him Darshan Express/52459           07:005h 55m       12:55

 

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