Spiti valley is one of the most sought-after travel destinations currently in India. But owing to its remote location and hostile terrain, a lot of people visiting Spiti do not have a clear idea of what the best routes for Spiti are.
Therefore, to help you guys, I am going to discuss in detail about the best routes for Spiti. If you are a first time traveler wanting to visit Spiti then just stay tuned and you’ll have all your queries put to rest.
Best Routes For Spiti – All The Details You Need As A First Time Traveler
So, to reach Spiti, there are two prominent routes which are actually best routes. One is the route via Kinnaur and the other one is via Lahaul. No matter where you start from you have to pass through either of them to reach Spiti.
So for the ease of understanding I’ll consider Shimla as the starting point for the Kinnaur route and Manali as the starting point for Lahaul route.
The route via Kinnaur is open throughout the year. But the Lahaul route is only open during 4-5 months in Summer and Autumn. So accessibility wise the route via Kinnaur is the best.
How To Reach Spiti By Shimla-Kaza Route (Reaching Spiti via Kinnaur From Shimla)
Shimla-Kaza route is one of the most common and the best routes for Spiti. The route to Kaza via Kinnaur (Shimla-Kaza road) is open throughout the year. So this is one the reasons what makes it the best and commonly used for reaching Spiti.
So first things first, you have to reach Shimla. There are a lot of volvo buses heading to Shimla from Delhi and Chandigarh. if you are self-driving you should not have any problems as you’ll be driving on a national highway.
Now once you have made it to Shimla. This is the route you’ll need to follow. And in case its your first time to Spiti feel free to check my 27 practical travel tips for Spiti.
- Reaching Narkanda from Shimla
- Getting to Rampur Bushahr from Narkanda
- Reaching Karcham from Rampur Bushahr
- Getting to Reckong Peo From Karcham
- Reaching Nako From Reckong Peo
- Getting to Tabo from Nako
- Finally reaching Kaza from Tabo
Reaching Narkanda from Shimla
Narkanda is a beautiful town located in Upper Shimla region. And it is one of the important stop overs for people who are visiting Spiti valley via Kinnaur route.
From Shimla you head towards the popular tourist resort of Kufri and Fagu on NH5, pass through the beautiful village of Theog to reach Narkanda which is located at around 8000 ft.
So, when I went to Spiti, we drove directly up to Narkanda from Chandigarh and called it day at Narkanda. A lot of people do the same instead spending a night in crowded Shimla. Shimla to Narkanda is around 60 km.
Getting to Rampur Bushahr from Narkanda
From Narkanda you’ll continue on NH5. There is one diversion which goes towards Jalori Jot in Kullu which is NH305, but you have to continue towards Rampur. The road conditions are decent and nothing to worry about.
Reaching Karcham from Ramur Bushahr
Karcham is around 76 km from Rampur Bushahr and is located in Kinnaur. Karcham is where the road to Baspa valley and Reckong peo diverts. So have take the diversion that leads you Reckong Peo.
From Rampur Bushahr as you move towards Karcham, you actually cross over to Kinnaur from Shimla at a place called Jeori. The roads will be average at some places on this stretch.
Getting to Reckong peo from Karcham
Reckong Peo is the district headquarters of Kinnaur. And is around 41 km from Karcham.
You do not need to go all the way to Reckong Peo, but continue towards Pooh. A lot of people though make a stopover at Reckong Peo, so I have included it.
Reckong Peo is the major towns in Kinnaur and you’ll get public to Upper Kinnaur, Baspa Valley, Spiti valley and other villages in Kinnaur valley.
Reaching Nako From Reckong Peo
Next you’ll continue on NH5 head towards Nako in Upper Kinnaur from Reckong Peo. Nako is one of the major stopovers for people visiting Spiti valley.
Due to its resemblance to Spitian Landscapes, Nako is often mistaken to be a part of Spiti, but in reality it is Upper Kinnaur, Hangrang valley to be precise. Nako is around 101 km from Reckong Peo.
Getting to Tabo from Nako
From Nako as you continue on the national highway, you will reach Tabo, one of the most famous places in Spiti valley via Sumdo.
Tabo is around 63 km from Nako. And is home to one of the oldest monasteries in Spiti valley. A lot of people also choose Tabo as their stopover when visiting Spiti valley via Kinnaur route.
Finally Getting To Kaza from Nako
Finally after a long journey on the road you’ll reach the administrative capital of Spiti which is Kaza. And it is also the biggest town in Spiti valley.
The distance from Tabo to Kaza is around 48 km. So depending on where you take stopovers usually it will take you at least a couple of days to reach Kaza from Shimla.
Most people tend to stop at different places in Kinnaur and hence it might take more time to reach Spiti from Shimla.
Road Conditions and Accessibility of Shimla-Kaza route
The road conditions of Shimla-Kaza is route is good for the most part. You might get bad patches in between. Like there were few bad patches on the way to Reckong Peo from Rampur.
There is a small bad stretch from Reckong Peo to Nako as well, but nothing to worry about. From Nako the road conditions are pretty good with most of the road being metaled.
So all in all expect for monsoon and winter conditions (occasional landslides and avalanche) the road is delight to drive amidst such exquisite scenery.
Shimla-Kaza route is operational throughout the year except for occasional closures due to landslides and heavy snow which is cleared as soon as possible.
Monsoon month should be generally avoid due to perils of landslides. And during winters a 4X4 drive with an experienced driver in snowy conditions is an absolute must to reach Kaza.
Chances of AMS on Shimla-Kaza route
Shimla-Kaza is one of the best ways to get acclimatized for your Spiti trip. Unlike Kaza-Manali road there are no mountain passes on this route and the elevation gain is also gradual so its very strenous on the body.
So in my opinion, if you are visiting Spiti in whichever seasons, you should enter via Shimla and Kinnaur and exit via Lahaul and Manali to get acclimatized and avoid AMS.
Reaching Spiti via Lahaul – How to Reach Spiti from Manali
Manali-Kaza route via Lahaul is one of the other best routes to Spiti which people usually opt. You can reach Spiti from Manali via Lahaul just in a matter of 10-12 hours. But the roads conditions are extremely bad.
And chances of getting AMS are quite high as the elevation gain certainly very drastic. Also, Manali-Kaza road remains open only from June to October. Most people usually enter via Kinnaur route and exit via Manali-Kaza route making it a circuit trip.
But Manali-Kaza route is extremely scenic. As you’ll be making your towards the middle land amidst the mighty peaks of Lahaul-Spiti and Chandra River will be your constant companion. By the way, I have a complete backpacking guide to Lahaul valley, feel free to check it out.
This is the route you need to follow if you want to reach Spiti valley from Manali. Manali-Kaza route is one of the best routes to reach Spiti if you are short on days as it takes only 10-12 hours from Manali.
- Reaching Gramphoo from Manali
- Getting to Chhota Dhara from Gramphoo
- Reaching Kunzum La from Chhota Dhara
- Finally making it to Kaza from Kunzum La
Reaching Gramphoo from Manali
Now before the Atal tunnel opened up, it would have taken you around 2.5 to 3 hours to reach Gramphoo from Manali via Rohtang La.
But now due to Atal you can bypass Rohtang La and directly head to Gramphoo via the tunnel this would save at least a 1.5 hours. The distance from Manali to Gramphoo is around 47 km.
By the way you should definitely check out my blog 31 ethereal places to visit near Spiti. These places are equally picturesque as the places in Spiti.
Getting to Chota Dhara from Gramphoo
From Gramphoo basically you’ll be driving on a dirt track. The road from Gramphoo till at least losar is in extremely bad shape. So you have to be extremely careful while driving.
Even though the road is bad, it is just celestial. If you are lucky enough and the weather is clear, then you’ll be able to witness some insane views of snow-clad peaks that will be etched in your memory.
I was not so fortunate enough as the weather was overcast throughout the journey. Gramphoo to Chatru is around 34 km.
Reaching Kunzum La from Chota Dhara via Batal
So Kunzum La is the actual boundary between Lahaul and Spiti valleys and once you are at Kunzum La you’ll finally enter the Spiti valley from Lahaul.
The road from Chota Dhara to Kunzum is in complete shambles with infinite water crossings and big stones on the dirt track. It was somewhere between Batal and Chota Dhara that we were stuck for 3 hours as a truck was stuck due to a big stone.
The distance between Chota dhara and Kunzum La is around 26 km. Pay your respects at Kunzum La along with the insane views of glaciers and high mountains.
Finally making it to Kaza from Kunzum La
So now the extremely bad roads will be behind you, but still it will take some to get metaled roads. Losar is the first village that you’ll encounter if you travel to Spiti via Manali-Kaza road.
You continue to keep moving towards and you should be able to reach there in a 2 couple of hours. The distance between Kunzum La and Kaza is around 77 km.
And take the road to Kaza via Kibber village and not Rangrik village (maps will show you via Rangrik village) as the road is better via Kibber. We took the Rangrik route and it was quite bad to be honest, Later on I got to know that Kibber route was better.
So It should take around 10-12 hours to reach Kaza from Manali as the roads is in Shambles. But according to some news reports, BRO has repaired the Kaza-Manali road, but we will get a clarity about the actual road conditions only in Summer 2021.
Road conditions And Accessibility of Manali-Kaza Route
So as you might have read earlier, the Manali-Kaza road is in Shambles from Gramphoo onwards till at least Losar village in Spiti valley.
The road has many rocks some of which are huge and dangers of landslides always looms large here. But according to some reports, it is said the Manali-Kaza stretch from Gramphoo onwards has been repaired by BRO.
But we will only know for sure in the summer of 2021 when the road opens again. And there are plenty of scary water crossings on the Gramphoo-Kaza stretch during summers so be quite careful while tackling those.
As far as accessibility is concerned Spiti is only open via Lahaul during June – October. Heavy snow at Kunzum La makes Spiti inaccessible during winters.
Chances of AMS on Manali-Kaza Route
So to be very honest chances of AMS increase a lot if you are entering Spiti from Manali-Kaza route. Imagine being at 6200 ft in the morning and at 12,500 ft in the evening.
Such crazy elevation gain can drastically increase the chances of AMS. And DO NOT make the mistake of visiting Tso Chigma or Chandratal, one of the beautiful lakes in Lahaul first. Head to straight to Kaza from Manali.
If you are coming from Manali, then you should be heading straight to Kaza and not anywhere else. And ideally should take proper rest the next day and get acclimatized to avoid AMS.
To conclude, I hope that you now have an fair bit of idea on best routes for Spiti. In my personal opinion, you should enter from Spiti from Shimla side via Kinnaur and exit Spiti from Manali via Lahaul. Of course, the circuit trip will be only possible from June to October.
That way you get the best of both worlds and it will a great way to get your body acclimatized as well. Feel free to reach out, in case you have any questions regarding the best routes for Spiti valley.