Looking for an epic India adventure to Spiti Valley? Want a full travel guide to Spiti, India's hidden treasure? Then you have landed on the right page.
Far away, hidden among vast Himalayan peaks, through the world's most treacherous road, past military checkpoints and near the remote tibetan border, lies Spiti Valley. A hidden gem in India where the beauty surpasses almost anything we have ever seen. A moonscape of barren but grand land, towering above you in all its allure. A place so hard to reach, very few adventurers dare to travel there!
Although the Journey to Spiti Valley is long and difficult the rewards far out weigh the work involved. Plus, we think the journey to Spiti Valley is half of the fun and all part of the adventure! We visited this incredible place in April 2018 and it is definitely one of our greatest travel highlights to date!
It is a far less visited place then popular Ladakh, but we would say equally if not more beautiful! Have we convinced you to take the plunge and visit Spiti Valley? We hope so! We would hate for you to miss out on experiencing this natural wonder!
Continue reading to get a full travel guide to Spiti Valley including details on transport, accommodation, permits, when to visit, things to see & much more!
Permits for Spiti Valley / Rohtang Pass Permits:
We did mention earlier that Spiti Valley is not the easiest location to reach. So First and foremost lets cover the formalities and details around the permits needed to gain access to Spiti Valley and how to get them!
Spiti Valley Permits for Indian Citizens:
Indian citizens are not required to obtain any permit for entry into the Spiti Valley region. However they are expected to carry valid identification and may be ID checked at various check posts.
Indian citizen are however required to obtain a vehicle permit if planning to drive independently through the Rohtang Pass. This permit is also required if you are driving a motorcycle. So if you are planning to drive to Spiti Valley, you must consider the vehicle permit requirements.
You can get the permit online or in person at the SDM office in Manali which is open from 10am to 5pm (except Sunday and the second Saturday of the month). I did hear that online permits are only availably to 4 wheelers and that motorbikes need to apply in person.
It is also stated in many online forums that you only require a vehicle permit if you are travelling through Rotang Pass from Manali, if you are travelling through via Kaza then apparently there is no need for a permit, but do call the SDM office to confirm that one.
Phone numbers for the SDM office are 01902-254100 and 01902-254200. You will need your drivers license and the vehicle registration certificate to obtain the permits. The permit has two sections and they are outlined below:
Spiti Valley Permits for Foreign Citizens:
All foreigners wanting to visit the border regions of Kinnaur and Spiti, specifically any of the following places need to obtain an Inner Line Permit (ILP): Khab, Samdo, Dhankar, Tabo, Gompa, Kaza, Morang and Dubling (Lahaul & Spiti).
You can obtain these permits in person at the District Administration office in Shimla or the District Magistrate office Reckong Peo. We read many reports saying you can obtain them in Rampur and other locations, but the office in Rampur refused to issue a permit and sent us to Reckong Peo. So to be safe I am only going to recommend you get your permits in Shimla or Reckong Peo.
The offices are usually open between 10am-5pm and the processing time takes about 1-2hours. It's officially free to obtain the permit which is great and the permits have a maximum time limit of two weeks. In the end we just paid a travel agent Rs200 to organise the permits for us in Reckong Peo.
There is a rule that the permits can only be issued for groups of 4 or more people. Apparently this rule is only strictly enforced in Shimla, so if you are a solo traveller or small group, then it's best to get your permit in Reckong Peo. We had no trouble getting the permit for just two people in Reckong Peo.
Also, make sure you have your passport handy and you may or may not need a passport photo so bring one just incase. It’s also a good idea to print a few copies of your permit, because some check posts will want to keep a copy!
Watch our journey to Nako in our travel video below
What to Expect / Things to Know:
Travelling to Spiti Valley is an adventure of a lifetime! Spiti Valley is an incredibly remote place, which does come with some difficulties, challenges and adventures. I have bullet pointed a few things to be aware of before travelling to Spiti Valley.
Best time to Visit Spiti Valley:
We travelled to Spiti valley in April which is the tail end of Winter. Everyone told us the roads were not open, but we ignored them and went anyway! It was a wonderful time to visit as we had the place to ourselves and it wasn't too cold! But everyone's travel style is different so below I will outline the details for each season so you can decide the best time to visit for you.
April: This was when we visited Spiti Valley and it was incredible. Almost zero tourists around and the weather was dry and not too cold. There was even a little bit of snow around which was nice! Accommodation options were limited as some hotels had not opened for the season yet, but we definitely had places to stay! You can explore all the way to Kaza during this time of year, however we could only enter Spiti Valley via Reckong Peo and had to exit the same way as the Rohtang and Kunzum Passes were closed.
Roads: Open only via Reckong Peo - not accessible from Manali
Temperature: -5℃ to 18℃
Tourist Numbers: Low
May-June: This is peak season for Spiti Valley and tourist numbers are higher. You will notice many travellers making the journey from Delhi to Spiti Valley in these months and you certainly won't have the place to yourself. However from mid June all of the roads will be open and hotels will be in full swing during these months. The weather will also very pleasant, perfect for viewing the stunning Himalayan terrains!
Roads: All roads open by mid June
Temperature: 5℃ to 20℃
Tourist Numbers: Medium-High
July-September: Considered the monsoon months in Kinnar, where temperatures are higher but rainfall and cloud cover is more likely. This might not be the ideal time to visit Kinnaur due to the danger of landslides and the possibility of views being blocked by clouds. However the Spiti side of the valley remains largely protected by a rain shadow. We do think it would be a shame not to see Kinnaur in its full glory!
Roads: All roads should be open, unless blocked by landslides
Temperature:15℃ to 25℃
Tourist Numbers: Low
Oct: I think this would be a lovely time to visit Spiti and would be similar conditions to April especially if you are planning to visit in the first two weeks of Oct. You will see less tourist but the chances of all roads being open are fairly high! It will start to get colder in Oct, so do bring appropriate clothing for possible sub zero temperatures. You might find that hotels begin closing down for winter, but you will still find options available.
Roads: All roads should be open in early Oct, unless blocked by early snow. High possibility of these roads being closed in late Oct.
Temperature: -5℃ to 20℃
Tourist Numbers: Low
Nov-March: The Winter months in Spiti valley see extreme temperatures and even many village residents retreat to lower altitudes. Roads will still be accessible from Reckong Peo, but some roads might get blocked due to snowfall for a few days at a time. There will be very few accommodations open and icy, snowy roads will make the journey even more scary and dangerous, so not the best time to be visiting the region.
If you are wanting to travel in the Winter to see snow, or if this is the only time you can travel I would recommend either Nov or March and try to avoid the middle of winter in the months from Dec-Feb. Travelling with a guide or by bus would be advised unless you have experience driving in ice and snow.
Roads:Rohtang and Kunzum Passes will be closed, other roads might be blocked due to snowfall.
Temperature: 10℃ to -20℃
Tourist Numbers: Low
Modes of Transport:
Travelling Spiti Valley by public transport is a great option for foreign tourist or for budget travellers who do not feel confident driving in treacherous road conditions. This mode of transport will take longer and will be less comfortable compared to travelling by private vehicle. It is also a little limiting not having your own wheels, however this is the way we explored Spiti and we had a blast! You can see our journey to Spiti by bus live in action in our travel video here.
From Delhi it would be best to catch a comfortable volvo sleeper bus direct to either Manali or Shimla. The sleeper buses can be booked online, we use Redbus as this is the only company that accepts foreign credit cards. The ride will be very comfortable and fairly painless with toilet and food stops along the way.
Sleeper buses from Delhi to Shimla will usually take about 8hours departing at about 9pm and arrive at around 6am. While buses from Delhi to Manali will take about 13hours departing in the evening and arriving mid morning. Volvo sleeper bus tickets will cost approximately Rs1000/$14USD
Once reaching Shimla or Manali the rest of the journey will be via local bus. Local buses in the area are poorly maintained. The ride will be bumpy and dusty and it can actually be quite terrifying. However drivers are extremely skilled and you do start to ease into it and get more comfortable after a while. A true adventure travel experience that you will look back on forever!
You will likely need to catch many connecting buses and break up your journey in small but picturesque towns, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time for your trip. To find bus times you will need to ask locals in the area or your hotel manager, they will know the most up to date information. Some buses leave very early, so be sure to ask the night before you intend on travelling to your next location so that you don’t miss your ride.
To give you an idea of how long it will take to travel through the valley by bus, below is an example of a suggested travel plan including travel times and approximate bus fares:
Bus & Hired Bike
Another option is to jump on a volvo sleeper bus from Delhi to Manali or Shimla and then hire your bike when you arrive. This will give you the freedom to travel where and when you like. Do make sure you are an experienced and confident rider, these are not the kinds of roads you want to be learning how to ride a bike on! You will be travelling treacherous roads at high altitude with steep inclines, river crossings and rockfall risks.
Do expect long tiring rides, but with scenery that will blow your mind! It is also important to have proper motorcycle gear and a tire repair kit with you. Bike rentals in the area range from Rs800-3000/$11-40USD per day depending on the make and model of the bike you are hiring. (remember your vehicle permit!)
You can also decide to drive to Spiti Valley in your own vehicle. I would suggest having multiple drivers so that you can share the driving load. Do not underestimate the time it takes to travel from one location to another. As a rule of thumb expect you will be travelling no faster than 30km per hour, this will help you work out more accurate travel times.
As for what type of car to take, we saw many makes and models on the road even tiny little hack backs, so I am guessing most vehicles can make the trip, however a jeep or four wheel drive type vehicle would be much more suited to the roads. Things to note while travelling on your own vehicle are that this isn't your average hill station trip. Do be prepared for very slow unmaintained roads, rockfall and river crossings.
Another thing to note is that the roads are very narrow almost only big enough for one car and you need to be able to manoeuvre your car when oncoming traffic arrives. This can take time and can be very dangerous if not done with care and precision. There is petrol available on the route, however I would take a small back-up supply just incase. It's also important you have a spare tyre on your journey as well. (remember your vehicle permit!)
Probably the easiest and most care free way to travel from Delhi to Spiti Valley is to catch a volvo sleeper bus from Delhi and to start an organised tour from Manali. Tours usually last for 7-10 days and take the worry of driving away and you can sit back and enjoy the views! It may also help you maximise time on your journey through Spiti Valley. I found a really awesome looking tour agency that has all inclusive tours from just Rs13,950/$200USD per person. However most all inclusive tours will start at about Rs20,000/$290USD
There are also three main routes for the Delhi to Spiti Valley trip which I will Outline below: (please note these are not itineraries just a generally route/direction)
1) ROUTE 1 CLOCKWISE LOOP: Delhi - Manali - Kaza - Shimla - Delhi
2) ROUTE 1 ANTICLOCKWISE LOOP: Delhi - Shimla - Kaza - Manali - Delhi
These two routes are only possible in the warmer months when the Rotang Pass is open, usually from Late April to Early Oct.
3) ROUTE 3 NO LOOP: Delhi - Shimla - Kaza - Shimla - Delhi
This route is the only possible way to visit Spiti Valley during the Winter seasons when the Rohtang Pass is closed, usually from Late Oct to Early April.
Suggested Itinerary for a 10 day Spiti Valley Loop:
(travel times are reflected by bike or car not bus)
DAY 1) Delhi to Shimla (340kms/8hours)
DAY 2) Shimla - Rekong Peo (230kms/8hours)
DAY 3) Reckong Peo to Nako (100kms/5hours)
- Visit Nako Lake
DAY 4) Nako to Tabo (60kms/3hours)
- Visit Nako Monastery
- Visit Spiti Valley Mummy in Giu Village
DAY 5) Tabo to Pin Valley (65kms/3hours)
- Visit Tabo Monastery
DAY 6) Pin Valley to Kaza (50kms/3hours)
- Visit Key Monastery
DAY 7) Kaza
- Visit Komic
- Visit Langza/Lang Temple
- Visit Hikkim
DAY 8) Kaza to Chandratal Lake (100kms/5hours)
- Camp at Chandratal Lake
DAY 9) Chandratal Lake to Manali (115kms/6hours)
DAY 10)Manali to Delhi: (532km/13hours)
Top Sights in Spiti Valley:
Komic Village: This is the highest village in Asia and is located at a height of 5486m located about 18 kilometers from Kaza town. The beauty of this village will leave you speechless surrounded by panoramic mountain views.
Hikkim: Spiti valley also lays claim to the worlds highest post office in the village Hikkim at an elevation of 4,400m. A great stop off and and photo op or why not send a postcard?
Lang Temple/Langza: An ancient temple in the village Langza that boasts a beautiful buddha statue.
Key Monastery: One of the most famous and photographed places in Spiti Valley is the stunning Key Monastery Dating back to 1000 AD this monastery is home to over 300 buddhist lamas and sits at an altitude of 4,166m
Pin Valley: A national park in the region that is home to not only awe inspiring scenery but also rare and unique Himalayan flora and fauna and the elusive snow leopard.
Tabo Monastery: A stunning ancient monastery that dates back to 996A.D and houses priceless frescos, statues, paintings and scrolls.
Chandratal Lake: A beautiful sparkling blue lake with night camping facilities available, the perfect place for stargazing!
Nako Lake: No trip to Spiti valley is complete without a visit to Nako, the most beautiful place I have ever been! Nako has a small but peaceful lake located in Nako village surrounded by beautiful willow trees and stunning mountain vistas. You can see our adventures in Nako in our travel video here.
Nako Monastery: An ancient buddhist monastery located in the sleepy but enchanting village of Nako. You can see our Nako adventures in our travel video here.
Suraj Tal: A holy lake that translate to Lake of the Sun God. This emerald green beauty is the 3rd highest lake in India.
The Mummy of Spiti Valley: Located in the small village of Giu lies the mummified body of Sangha Tenzin a Lama who died at the age of 45 nearly half a millennia ago. It is said that the mummy was discovered by police while doing road construction work.
You can see our adventure in Nako in our Travel video
Festivals in Spiti Valley:
Ladarcha Fair - A vibrant celebration that takes place in Kaza during the month of July or August. One of the largest festivals in Spiti showcasing a bustling market, traditional song, dance and costumes.
Pauri Fair - Celebrated in the 3rd week of August every year in the town of Udaipur in Lahaul valley. PEople gather in large numbers across the valley and beyond and a colourful display of religious and cultural rituals take place during this festival.
Gothsi / Gochi Festival - Celebrated in the Bhaga Valley during February. A unique festival which sees interesting religious rituals taking place accompanied by traditional musical drums.
Gataur Mela - Celebrated in last week of September. In this festival lamas worship God Chaugayal.
Tsheshu Festival - Celebration in the month of June at many monasteries including: Shashur, Gemur, Kye, Kardang, Tabo and Mane. This festival features a devil dance performed by lamas wearing traditional costumes and elaborates masks.
Losar - The tibetan new year celebrated annually in February. This is a lively festival which includes traditional dance, music, religious ceremonies and debates.
Halda - The festival of lights in the Spiti valley region celebrated much like Diwali, but in January.
Recommended Accommodation in Spiti Valley:
After many years of travelling we have realised that having good accommodation is one of the aspects that can put the icing on the cake for your trip, or cast a dark shadow over it. So here are some of the top recommended hotels and home-stays for your trip to Spiti Valley.
We have done extensive research to find the best options in the valley with outstanding reviews, some of these we have stayed at ourselves and some we have not. But to date our research for the best hotels has never failed us and we know this list will help make your accommodation choices easier!
We have tried to include options for various budgets and travel styles where possible, however in some of the remote places you will not find lux accommodation options.
(prices are approx and will vary depending on season)
Spiti Valley Travel Budget:
basic expenses/approx costs
10 day Budget with Own Vehicle
Vehicle permit: Rs550/$8USD
Total = Rs17550/$250USD
10 day Budget with Motor Bike Hire
Vehicle permit: Rs550/$8USD
Bus from Delhi to Manali & Return:Rs2000/$30USD
Bike Hire: Rs10,000/$143USD
Total = Rs26550/$380USD
10 day Budget with Public Transport
Bus from Delhi to Manali & Return:Rs2000/$30USD
Local Buses: Rs1500/$20USD
Total = Rs12,500/$180USD
10 day organised Tour
Bus from Delhi to Manali & Return:Rs2000/$30USD
10 Day Organised Tour: Rs20,000/$290USD
Total = Rs22,000/$316USD
So there you have it, our complete guide to Spiti Valley, we hope you found this article helpful. If you have any questions about travelling to Spiti Valley then please comment below, we will be happy to answer any travel questions as best we can. Or if you have any travel tips to add for Spiti Valley, let us know below so fellow travellers can have the best ever time in beautiful Spiti!
If you like this article you may also find our 'Best Homestay in India' article interesting. In this article we reveal our top pick for the best Homestay in India located in the beautiful village of Laluri in Uttrakand India.
Cheers, Native Travellers
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