Traveling to Spiti? Things you must know, before you go!!
Spiti Valley is one incredible destination that offers variety to your travel experience in myriad ways. The road trip, the distance, the desert valley, the warm culture will evoke emotions never felt before !!!
Though the journey to Spiti is challenging, the good part is that mostly necessary stuff is available at intervals, you will encounter markets while crossing small towns and you will find food, snacks, milk, pay phone and other important things you might need. You will not find any food joints / dhabas / hotels for long stretches of the journey hence it is advisable to carry some munching stuff to keep hunger pangs at bay.
Wherever you go, it’s good to do research and have critical information handy, so here we share the first hand information and our experiences that will certainly help before/while planning a road trip to the wonderland called Spiti Valley. Read How to reach Spiti Valley
- The erratic weather – Spiti Valley is one place where you can’t really predict what you are going to encounter next on the weather part. Mornings are pleasant, a bit cold though but as soon as the Sun rises high things are good; Afternoons are windy and could be super harsh for your skin, do not expose for a long time. Evenings get really chilly and windy. Also, it gets really dusty and dry. You might want to go for a nature walk but you just can’t. Nights are freezing, temperature could drop like crazy making you feel cold in the rooms even with blankets on!!! It’s advisable to carry jackets, windcheaters, cotton scarves, sweaters are not going to help much.
Our experience: I vividly remember in Tabo as well as in Kaza, we tried to venture out in the evening (must have been around 6) but the winds pushed us back in the room. It was extremely harsh on the baby. So the Mommy stayed with the baby and Ashish went on his exploration spree with the camera 🙂 However if we were traveling without the baby we might have attempted to go out albeit with the body and face covered well. The weather was extremely dusty, windy and chilly too.
- The thrilling roads – There are two ways to reach Spiti – one via Manali and the other one that lets you through the Trans Himalayas via Shimla – Kinnaur – Spiti. We covered the region via Shimla. It was thrilling as well as challenging to drive on these roads. The hairpin bends of NH – 22, the narrow dimensions, encountering natural waterfalls, close encounters with trucks and buses, the frequent bad patches will drive you feel ecstatic and sometimes insane :). Take a virtual tour of the roads here.
Our experience: We chose to go via Shimla as the altitude in these places is quite high which can lead to Acute Mountain Sickness. So, if you are not a frequent traveler in the high altitude regions, it could be tough for your body to acclimatize, ultimately ruining your vacation. Moreover, we were traveling with a baby so did not want to take chance. And Manali route was closed in April 2016. The journey was FUN!!! However, there is an enduring 40 kms pebbly patch between Jeori to Karcham, a little further till Reckong Peo.
- Phone services – Only BSNL network works throughout Spiti, so if you really want that your cell phone must stay connected then you will have to take a BSNL connection at Shimla. There are land line phones available everywhere though.
Our experience: Airtel was working till Kalpa and few stretches till Tabo. Vodafone stopped working at Kufri itself (near Shimla), so absolutely not reliable. However the real fun of vacation is being away from all your gadgets 🙂 and taking a break from the world!!!
- Petrol Pumps – You will encounter one right while approaching Shimla, then next one is at Narkanda; Rampur has one; then the next one is at Rekong Peo and the last one in Spiti is in Kaza. After Kaza, the next one is in Manali. There is no petrol pump at Sarahan and Sangla.
- ATM Services – It’s important to carry ample cash particularly on a road trip to areas like Spiti Valley. You will find ATM at Shimla, Rampur, Sangla, Tabo and Kaza. However, do keep spare cash in your secret pocket or somewhere.
Our experience: On our trip we were depending on the ATM in Kaza but to our disappointment the ATM was not working!!! We had to make online transfer of funds to pay the hotel bill. So do keep spare cash in your secret pocket or somewhere.
- Accommodation – You don’t have to worry, the major stopovers have a decent number of hotels and homestays. However, during winter months mostly hotels are not functioning, we went on a trip in April 2016 and even then only few places were open; we were told that all places are open only between mid May – August, so plan well considering following –
- Shimla : Being a popular hill station, there is no dearth of stay options here.
- Kufri / Fagu / Chail : There are decent choices but charges increase during the winter months.
- Sarahan : Again, the place has several hotels / homestays and you can find a place starting at Rs. 350 for a night. Explore stay options at Sarahan!!!
- Sangla : Offers lot of choices in terms of the kind of stay you want and the bargain could range between Rs. 700 to Rs. 1000.
- Chitkul : Offers limited choices. Chitkul has about five – six decent hotels and a PWD guest house.
- Kalpa : Another beautiful hill station with magnificent views of Kinner Kailash range. Kalpa has a range of budget and luxury hotels and resorts. We stayed at ‘The Kalpa Retreat’ and got a good bargain of Rs. 700 a night.
- Nako : Has few hotels and a PWD guest house. We stayed at the guest house. I will be sharing a separate post having details of booking a PWD guest house and experience of staying there.
- Tabo : Has myriad options – hotels, homestays and a monastery owned guest house.
- Dhankar : Stay options available but usually people prefer to stay at Kaza only and cover the places in and around Kaza in a day’s time.
- Gue Village: No decent stay option available
- Kaza : Kaza is presently the headquarters of Spiti sub division. You will find lot of stay options however we recommend Hotel Deyzor or Sakya’s Homestay.
- Shopping experience in Spiti Valley – Who doesn’t like to carry souvenir’s ? Especially the appealing Tibetan ones, I guess every one will love one. Well, unlike places like Shimla, Manali, Mcleodganj, Rajasthan; you are not going to find markets brimming with tourists in Spiti. The only place where you can find interesting stuff is Kaza. You will get mugs, Tibetan prayer flags, clothing, wall hangings, woolen Kurtis and caps. So enjoy 🙂 However if you stay in New Delhi, there is a place called Majnu ka Tila and similar stuff can be bought from retail shops here.
Hope you have a great trip and bring back happy memories 🙂