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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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By raachotrekkers

Seeker of the Himalaya

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