I wonder why people who plan to explore the most beautiful state of Himachal Pradesh only end up visiting Shimla or Manali. What a lost opportunity to experience the real beauty of Himachal Pradesh, which lies in locations beyond these popular towns.
I was fortunate to visit this amazing place last year, a first-hand experience that is unheard of by many.
Through this blog, I intend to share more about the true beauty of this small town, so the next time you consider this in your bucket list as well.
This is a small village in Himachal Pradesh called Chitkul–The Last Inhabited Indian Village of India.
I had never heard of Chitkul until then. But always wanted to visit Himachal. I think it’s one of the most scenic states in India. Friends recommend the more regular options of Shimla or Manali for the trip.
But I always preferred visiting locations that go beyond the obvious. Destinations that have been far less traveled.
And that’s how during some preliminary research, I came across the Chitkul–the last inhabited Indian village on the Indo-Tibet border and a part of the Sangla Valley. It’s the last point in India where one can travel without a permit.
The sheer beauty of this place I witnessed online through pictures and blogs helped me make up my decision to visit Chitkul.
And I planned this very special trip to Chitkul in almost a week’s time. I would go on to add that it was one of the best experiences I had in my life and hence this became my first travel blog.
Nestled in the picturesque Kinnaur Valley lies Chitkul. An adventure lover’s delight, a geography enthusiast’s paradise, and an all-out enchantingly surreal landscape lend to Chitkul its eternal delight!
All About Chitkul
Chitkul’s height is about 11,319 Ft in altitude, which is assured enough to make it a hard-to-reach paradise. As they say, all things worth having in life never come that easy, so I say, Chitkul should be on that list.
If traveling to offbeat places is what gets your rhythm going, Chitkul should be a must-have on your list! No internet connectivity in this paradise (though BSNL works fine for audio calls in Chitkul), makes you disconnected from the world and complements your connection with the beautiful environment and binds you to nature, and much more.
With Kinner Kailash visible in the backdrop, Chitkul brags of uncompromising views, from its soft spot on the Baspa River. On the left bank of the Baspa, there lie snow-clad mountains that you can look on until you wish and on the right bank, there lies an expanse of multi-color orchards.
The slopes of this magical land are bound by the majestic Deodars and Chilgoza trees. Baspa valley also boasts of abundant orchards, catering to the world some of the finest ‘Golden Delicious’ apples. Also, this settlement is famous for its high-quality potatoes, given the conducive weather and the fertile soil.
The villagers are either Hindus or Buddhists, speak a Tibeto-Burman dialect known as Kinnauri, and wear distinct green Pahari caps. You got to travel back to the ancient mythology, where it is said that the people of Kinnaur were known as Kinnauras, the halfway between gods and humans. This further proves right the belief that Kinnaur is the land between heaven and earth!
Where is Chitkul Village?
Chitkul is situated in the Kinnaur Valley of Himachal Pradesh. Kinnaur is surrounded by Tibet on the east, Garhwal on the south, Spiti Valley on the north, and Kullu on the west. Interestingly, the Uttarakhand border is just 40km from Chitkul.
The distance of Delhi to Chitkul is 569km and the nearest town of Sangla is about 24 km. Rakcham village is the midway point between Sangla and Chitkul and the drive from Rakcham to Chitkul is breathtaking, adventurous and just 916 22K PURE GOLD beautiful!
The Indo-Tibet border is about 90 KMs from the Chitkul village. But, no civilian movement—without a permit—is allowed beyond Chitkul, which is why it is famously known as the last village before the Indo-Tibet Border. The area beyond the village is in control of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, ITBP.
Weather in Chitkul
Summers are mildly cold temperature-wise, with highs of 20 degrees and night-time temperature is around five Degree Celsius. Chitkul’s temperature stays pleasant or cool through most of the year barring the months of winter.
Best time to visit Chitkul
The best time to visit is the summer months especially from April to June and September to October. The thrilling roads of India–Tibet Highway leading up to Chitkul and the clear blue skies make for the perfect adventure, with enough safety mixed in.
But, August to September is harvest season for the apples and makes for a sight to never be forgotten, with the entire vistas turning into colors of the fertility of the land. Since the winter months are uninhabitable, it isn’t a practical option.
How to reach Chitkul?
Reaching Chitkul will be an unforgettable journey. The thrilling adventure is unmatchable, thanks to the high escalation on the mountains in crossing different valleys of the Kinnaur region.
The lush green forested mountains complemented by the cobalt blue of the skies almost makes one forget the insanely difficult roads. There is a reason they are called the most treacherous roads in the world.
The best route to take (assuming that Delhi is the starting point) is via
Delhi » Chandigarh » Shimla (2200 mt) » Narkanda (2708 mt) » Rampur(1350mt) » Karcham (1813 mt) » Sangla(2696 mt) » Rakcham(3048 mt) » Chitkul (3450 mt).
Depending on the mode of transportation you may choose, you’d still have to travel a large part of your journey by road. Roads are decently maintained for most of the route. Here, the road takes you along the crest of the mountains, for the most part, gliding along many valleys and providing beautiful green vistas as your companion.
All pictures by Ramesh Tahlan.
Once Narkanda is passed by, you will be driving mostly downhill to reach the river bed of Sutlej, right up till Karcham, after which an ascend begins again towards Sangla and further to Chitkul!
But, it is always advisable to always be alert on the tricky Himalayan roads, splattered with hairpin bends and high ascends and sharp descend. Oncoming traffic can also be tricky to maneuver on single-lane roads. Also, a lot of the time you’ll be in awe of the Local Himachali drivers and their daring skills!
Some travel tips about Chitkul
Hamlets as Chitkul are best discovered on foot –explore the little alleyways and get a feel as a local villager. The population of Chitkul is just below 1,000, the town is full of culture and community.
Chitkul has three temples dedicated to Mata Devi, the oldest is said to be 500 years old. The entire compound is beautiful and a must-visit for experiencing the Kath-Kuni wooden architecture. The temple seems to have a high prominence in the Bengali culture, as you would see a lot of pilgrims from there!
Unquestionably, you must walk down to the banks of the Baspa river and reawaken your soul by dipping your hands in the glacial water. The crystal-clear water will keep you enthralled.
Treks Near Chitkul
Chitkul is also the start or endpoint of many easy, medium, and difficult treks around the region. Some of them are:
Trek to Nagasti ITBP Camps
This is a relatively easier trek of about four kilometers. Do make sure to take a water bottle with you and keep sipping water every now and then.
Ranikanda Meadows hike
About 10km in totality, the trek from Chitkul to Rani Kanda Meadows is completely worthy. Easy to Medium in difficulty level, the panoramic views of the vistas and the valleys will make the effort completely worthwhile on your trip to Chitkul.
Borasu Pass trek, Lamkhaga Pass trek are others which you got to try. Try your hand at Off-roading, bouldering, climbing & slacking.
The next most interesting activity you can do is, go fishing in the fresh, crystal-clear water of Chitkul. Both rainbow and brown trout fish can be seen swimming against the water.
Hindustan ka aakhri Dhaba (“Last Dhaba of India”) is always on the list of must-do things of visitors.
There are many such dhabas splattered across Chitkul’s end of the road, and one can choose whatever they fancy. Momos & Thupka are easily available, emphasizing the Tibetan influence and ancestry of the place. Of course, the staple affair of Maggi, Paranthas are aplenty.
Stay in Chitkul
A PWD Rest House is available at Chitkul. This place has basic amenities and even if you’re visiting for a day trip, you can easily use the facilities.
If you’re planning on spending a few days in Chitkul, which I highly recommend, then do try the Wanderer’s Nest or The Zostel at Chitkul.
This place is at a higher elevation and provides views that will be etched in your memory forever. While the place is basic, the staff is extremely courteous and the food is always piping hot.
You can check the list of some good accommodation or stay options in Kinnaur Valley. A lot of the old-school Himachali wooden houses are converted into hotels and provide exceptional views. However, due to isolation, these places tend to be slightly more expensive.
There are a few camping spots near the village, and you can easily spot some locals to help you out! So, do not hesitate to take your camping gear and spend a night beside the Baspa river under a billion-star night sky.
It’s been almost a year since I had been to Chitkul, but the experience is still fresh in my memory. Probably, it is one of those special destinations which you can’t let go of. I wanted to share this wonderful place with as many travelers as possible. Don’t miss it during this lifetime!
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 village 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.
Related : Kinnaur Bus Timetable (New Timings)
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 & Number||Departure from Kalka||Duration||Arrival at Shimla|
|Kalka Shimla Special/52445||07:00||5h 55m||12:55|
|Kalka Shimla Passenger/52457||03:30||5h 25m||08:55|
|Himalayan Queen/52455||12:10||5h 20m||17:30|
|Kalka Simla Express/52453||06:20||5h 15m||11:35|
|Shivalik DLX Express/52451||05:45||4h 50m||10:35|
|Him Darshan Express/52459||07:00||5h 55m||12:55|
HRTC and some private operators run buses on the Kalpa-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.
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.
Chitkul village is situated in the south-eastern part of Himachal Pradesh. The village is around 250 kilometers far from the state capital, Shimla.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.