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Autumn Colors: Chitkul to Kalpa

Our ten-day adventure trip to Spiti Valley begins. Heavy rain, mind-blowing views and autumn colors of Himalayan valleys make for a perfect start.
Autumn Colors: Chitkul to Kalpa


Spiti Valley had been on our bucket list for a very long time. So much so that we sold our previous car Hyundai Xcent early this year and bought Duster AWD just so that we could do this trip in our car! Our initial plan was to do it in June. However, since we got hold of our new car in April there wasn't ample time to get a feel of it and so we had to postpone our decision.

Initially, I was convinced that we would be able to do the trip only the next year as I didn't want to dare it in the monsoons! However, I came to know that we can visit Spiti in late September or early October. In fact, it is one of the best times because of fewer tourists and the valley is full of autumn colours.

As it happened, Gandhi Jayanti fell on 2nd October and Dussera on 8th and it was a perfect combination for a long vacation. Things fell into place and our trip was confirmed from 28th September to 8th October. Ten days of a dream road trip in the Himalayas! I was so excited that I found it hard to concentrate on my work at times - I was dreaming of Spiti day and night. I had probably watched every single video on YouTube about Spiti.

However, there was still a question - Should we go via Shimla or Manali? While doing Spiti road-trip, you either start from Shimla and come back via Manali or you start from Manali and come back via Shimla.

Almost everyone recommends going via Shimla. Still, we wanted to go via Manali and that was for one single reason - to see the sunrise at Rohtang Pass. With Rohtang Tunnel under construction, we thought that if it becomes operational, BRO might stop opening Rohtang Pass and we might never get a chance to see this sunrise.

And till the last day, we could not decide which route to take. I had got all the permits for Manali and even booked a hotel there. But, as it turned out - we took the other route. Read on!

Itinerary A

Day 1: Delhi to Manali
Day 2: Manali - Rohtang Pass - Sissu
Day 3: Sissu - Bata - Chandratal
Day 4: Batal - Losar - Kunzum Pass - Kaza
Day 5: Kaza - Ki - Kibber - Gette - Tashiagang - Kaza
Day 6: Kaza - Hikkim - Komic - Langza - Kaza
Day 7: Kaza - Pin Valley (Mudh Village) - Dhankar Monastry - Dhakar Lake - Tabo
Day 8: Tabo - Geu Mummy - Nako - Nako Lake - Kalpa
Day 9: Kalpa - Sangla - Chitkul - Sangla
Day 10: Sangla - Narkanda
Day 11: Narkanda - Delhi

Itinerary B

Day 1: Delhi - Shimla
Day 2: Shimla - Narkanda - Sangla - Chitkul
Day 3: Chitkul - Sangla - Kalpa
Day 4: Kalpa - Nako
Day 5: Nako  - Nako Lake - Geu Mummy - Tabo
Day 6:  Tabo - Dhankar Late - Dhankar Monastery - Kaza
Day 7: Kaza - Hikkim - Komic - Langza - Kaza
Day 8: Kaza - Ki - Kibber - Gette - Tashiagang - Kaza
Day 9: Kaza - Batal - Chandratal - Rohtang Pass - Manali
Day 10: Manali - Delhi

Day 1 : Delhi to Shimla

We left in the morning at around at 7 AM with the question still in mind - Shimla or Manali? Well, the plan was to reach Chandigarh and see the latest weather conditions. It was still raining in September and if it rained in Manali, crossing Rohtang Pass would become extremely risky. We might as well need to trace our path all the way to Shimla if Rohtang Pass got closed.

When we reached Chandigarh, we got the news from our hotel in Manali that it was raining cats and dogs in Manali! So, we had no option now but to take the Shimla route. Indeed, as we continued our journey and climbed up the mountains, it started raining heavily! We had made the right decision in the end not going to Manali.

Anyway, we soon reached Shimla. Searching for a comfortable place to stay overnight, we found a homestay by the name Shimla View Home. It was affordable and had 4+ star reviews on Google - two things we generally look for while searching for a stay.

We were so glad that we found this place! It was a nice, clean and cozy place with a perfect view of Shimla accompanied by great hospitality. They had a big terrace right outside our room, where we, later that evening, enjoyed a cup of tea while admiring a beautiful view of the valley. This will surely be our permanent stay whenever we go to Shimla!

View from our homestay in Shimla
View from our homestay in Shimla

Day 2: Shimla to Chitkul

Next day we left around 8 AM for Chitkul. It was raining on and off but not as heavy as the last day. As we journey ahead, we entered the beautiful Kinnaur Valley and gradually the shape of the mountains changed. Now, we were surrounded by gigantic mountain structures which were so difficult to cut, that road literally caved it’s way through the mountain, instead of cutting the entire structure. Lush green mountains washed in rainfall looked fabulous.

Later we entered the Sangla Valley. The hydro-projects built on Baspa river were too a sight to watch. The water in the reservoirs behind the dams was in the purest color we had ever seen. Compare that to the condition of rivers in the plains - you will realise the level of pollution humans do.

Cloud cover on way to Chitkul
Cloud cover on way to Chitkul

We reached Chitkul around 4 PM. However, we had not booked any hotel. In fact, we didn't have any booking for the entire trip and this was the first time we were doing a trip like that.

We started our searched for hotels and homestay. There was no network in our Airtel SIM cards, so google search was not an option. We had to park our car and walk around the village looking for them. After one and a half-hour search, we decided on Samaa Resorts. It was a nice and cosy place. The owners there are a couple who gave up their job and live in Chitkul running this hotel. In winters they close it down and go travelling for 4 months! Man a dream life for us! May be someday we will live like that.

Day 3: Chitkul to Kalpa

The previous day, when we had reached Chitkul, it was already dark. So we could not see anything around the village. However, next morning, when we went out, we got the first glimpse of the beauty of this village.

First of all, there were autumn colours all around. A little bit of green, a little bit of yellow and a little bit of brown! Although clouds covered most of the mountain peaks, we weren't complaining. We strolled around a little and enjoyed the views. It was drizzling on and off. Right beyond the ridge where were getting our photos clicked, we could see Baspa river. So, we climbed down a path to reach the river. It was a mesmerising combination of clean turquoise water (cold as ice) and the sound of the river flowing, which was meditating. Watch the video for beautiful views of the valley.

We sat at its banks for some time and spent some moments of peace. Later we went to take a walk in the nearby forest.

Around 11 AM we came back to the hotel, packed our bags and left Chitkul. We didn't want to leave this beautiful village so soon. But a long journey ahead was waiting for us. Before leaving, we promised ourselves to return here on a vacation someday.

From our hotel's owner, we had come to know about a beautiful spot near Raksham village, which is the first village after Chitkul while returning. As soon as you see UCO Bank ATM, take the first left after it and go down the path. Keep going until you see a beautiful meadow. You will definitely find it worth a stay. It was an off beat place where not many people go. And probably that is why it was so amazingly beautiful and raw in its form.

After returning from Raksham, we traced our way back a few kilometres till Kharcham Dam which is built on Baspa river. From there we left Baspa river valley and entered Sutlej River valley. How the views changed suddenly left us speechless. While Baspa valley was full of plant cover, Sutlej valley was completely barren with high mountains on both sides. Such a dramatic change in two adjacent valleys was unbelievable. However, this was only the beginning of wonders of nature we were going to see throughout our journey.

Kharcham Dam on Baspa River
Kharcham Dam on Baspa River

One of the best things about travelling is that how one path connects to another, you never know. We were in Raksham on recommendation of our hotel owner. Surprisingly we found him in Raksham itself and he offered us lunch along with his other mates. While having lunch, one of his friends asked us to drop him till Karcham dam. We agreed and along the way, we got engaged in a lot of amazing conversations about life in the valley and how he lives far from home, which is, Chandigarh. During these conversations, he recommended us a homestay in Kalpa. When we reached Kalpa, we took that homestay and it turned out to be a perfect stay. It was affordable and right beside the monastery.

We relaxed a little, had some tea and pakoras and then went to the monastery. It was our first ever visit to a monastery.

A beautiful sunset in Kalpa
A beautiful sunset in Kalpa