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Spiti valley is a cold desert in the remote parts of Himachal Pradesh. While Himachal is known for it's greenery, you won't find much of it in Spiti. However you'll see lots of stunning landscapes and extraordinary monasteries. This Spiti valley itinerary focuses on the practical aspects of travelling to Spiti from Delhi. You'll find the information for planning a trip to Spiti valley along with the perfect Spiti valley itinerary that covers all major attractions.
Best Time to Visit Spiti Valley
- April to June : This is the best time of the year to visit Spiti Valley. The snow has melted away and summer is just around the corner. You'll meet lots of travellers and bikers around this time.
- July to August : While it doesn't rain in Spiti Valley, it's the monsoon season in Himachal Pradesh due to which there will be frequent landslides and chances of flood in nearby places. It's best to avoid travelling during this season.
- September to October : September is a good time to visit Spiti Valley. There's no rain or snow and lesser number of people as compared to the summer season. Keep in mind though that it may start snowing anytime in October in Spiti. The road between Manali and Kaza closes when it snows so you'll have to travel via Shimla. The road between Shimla and Kaza is always open.
- November-March : These are the winter months in Spiti Valley. There will be lots of snow, the road from Manali to Kaza will be closed and there will be very few people in sight. If you're one who enjoys a challenge, you can travel to Spiti during this time.
How to Reach Spiti Valley
There are two ways of entering Spiti Valley - via Shimla and via Manali. Take a look at the pros and cons of travelling to Spiti from each of these places:
Shimla to Spiti Valley
This is a longer route as compared to Manali but it's open throughout the year. Moreover, the plus side is that you can visit Kinnaur valley along the way while coming from Shimla. Kalpa and Chitkul, particularly, are two places that cannot be missed. The biggest plus point for me was that when you take a trip to Spiti Valley via Shimla, you gradually climb higher. Shimla is at a height of 2276 m above sea level, Kalpa at 2960 m, Chitkul at 3480 m and finally Kaza (in Spiti) at 3800 m. Climbing to a high elevation suddenly can give you AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) but travelling to Spiti from Shimla can help avoid it.
Manali to Spiti Valley
The route from Manali to Kaza is a shorter one compared to the one via Shimla however the road condition is terrible. In fact, at most stretches there aren't even roads. There are just rocks and lots of water crossings as well. There are two passes on the way - Rohtang pass and Kunzum pass which close the moment it snows. Thus you have to keep a check on the weather conditions. Another negative of this route is the problem of AMS. You will be going from 2050 m to 3800 m in a matter of 10 hours. This can be a problem for some people. If you stop at Chandrataal, you'll be at 4250 m. A lot of people come down with AMS on climbing to this height from Manali.
Delhi to Spiti Valley
It's most likely that you'll be starting your journey to Spiti Valley from Delhi. You have two options before you - to either go to Shimla or Manali. There are overnight buses to both these cities. Shimla even has a railway station and an airport. If you have very little time, take an overnight bus from Delhi to Manali and cover Spiti. However, if you want to do a proper trip with 7-10 days in hand, do the Delhi to Spiti valley stretch via Shimla. The route you will be taking is Delhi-Shimla-Kinnaur-Spiti-Manali-Delhi. This is the best way to cover the best spots and enjoy a wholesome trip to Spiti valley.
What to Pack for Spiti Valley
What to pack for Spiti valley generally depends on the time of the year that you visit Spiti. If you're doing Spiti in April, there might be a little cold since the snow has just melted. You'll need a sweater and a light jacket. From May to August, regular t-shirts will be just fine. September might get a little cold so once again, carry a sweater and jacket. From October to March, be prepared for winter and snow.
Keep in mind that Spiti is a cold desert. The terrain is harsh and there's a lot of dust in the air. Keep yourself covered by wearing full sleeved clothes and jeans or pants down to the ankle. Carry a face mask or buy one at a local shop. It's also advisable to carry some dry snacks in case your vehicle breaks down at the Manali-Kaza stretch or you face a landslide on the Shimla-Kaza stretch.
Avoiding AMS during Spiti Valley Trip
AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness occurs when you reach a high altitude (typically around 4000 meter) suddenly over a short span of time. This happens when you travel from a low altitude to a high one in one day. Ideally, you should gain altitude over a span of 2-3 days. This is the reason I suggest travelling to Spiti from Shimla. Some of the signs and symptoms of AMS are headache, dizziness, vomiting and diarrhoea. You can avoid AMS by taking tablets before hand. However, if you don't do that and experience AMS, there are a few solutions to help curb your problems. Keep yourself hydrated. This is the most important thing to do in Spiti - AMS or not. Keep drinking water. Drink the local seabuckthorne juice and garlic soup as well. If you don't feel well even after 12 hours, you need to get down to a lower altitude immediately and see a doctor.
Spiti Valley Itinerary
This itinerary assumes that you have taken the route from Shimla and Kinnaur. You can take a look at the Kinnaur Valley itinerary where all local sightseeing places and transport options are mentioned. This Spiti valley itinerary will start from Kinnaur and end in Delhi via Manali.
Day 1 - Kinnaur to Kaza
Whether you're coming from Reckong Peo or Nako in Kinnaur, you can take the same bus that leaves Reckong Peo at 5 am for Kaza. This bus goes to Kaza via Nako and reaches in around 10 hours.
Where to Stay in Kaza
There's no stortage of hotels in Kaza. Since it's the capital of Spiti, Kaza has lots of hotels, home-stays, and hostels. I stayed at Zostel Kaza aka Zostel Spiti. It's located close to the market as well as the bus stand. Moreover, it's a big property with lots of open space and incredible views of the river and landscape. I stayed here throughout my trip to Spiti valley. They have dorm rooms, comfortable private rooms, alpine tents and regular tents. The staff was really helpful and I couldn't recommend this place enough!
Renting Bikes at Kaza
Now that you reached Kaza, there are 3 ways of getting around Spiti - hire a taxi cab, rent bikes or use local transport. The buses within Spiti are very few and the timings are inconvenient for sightseeing. Therefore I suggest either hiring a cab or renting bikes. You can find a range of bikes and even a scooty in Kaza. Make sure you hire one the moment you reach Kaza since this is a popular option. Me and a friend rented a Royal Enfield Himalayan from the Himalayan Cafe. The price of bikes ranges from INR 1400 to 2000 depending on the bike. A scooty will cost you around INR 700. Do note that there is only one petrol pump in Spiti which is at Kaza itself.
Day 2 - Chicham, Kibber, Key
Start your first day of local sightseeing in Spiti on bike (or scooty or cab or hitchhiking) by visiting some close-by places.
How would you like to be standing on Asia's highest bridge? That's Chicham bridge for you. Chicham bridge in Spiti Valley is a small yet hauntingly beautiful bridge located less than an hour's ride from Kaza. The road to get here is pretty good by Spiti standards and the landscape is so stunning. Reach here early in the morning before 9 am to beat the crowds and get a picture of the empty bridge.
Kibber is a charming little village near Chicham and Kee. The terrain here is unbelievable. Once you get over how beautiful that is, you'll be stuck admiring the beauty of the village. Each house has the same whitewashed walls with a maroon roof and the same blue and white pattern on it. Once you have visited Chicham, Kibber and Kee, you can either spend the night at the basic rooms in Kee Monastery or stay at Kibber itself. There's a ZostelX property here with great views.
Kee Monastery (Ki Monastery)
Kee Monastery (also spelled as Ki Monastery) is one of the most marvellous works of mankind that I have ever seen. While you ride from Kaza towards Kee, you'll see the monastery looming at a distance. Just watching it from far will give you goosebumps. The monastery is almost 800 years old and still standing strong. You can walk around, sit in the prayer hall and talk to the monks about the history of Kee monastery. You can wrap up for the day either by staying at Kee or Kibber. I suggest staying the night at one of these places because Langza, Hikkim and Komic (which you will visit the next) are at a higher altitude. You need one more day to get acclimated in order to avoid AMS.
Day 3 - Langza, Hikkim, Komic
From Kee or Kibber, make your way to Langza. You'll have to take the road to Kaza and find the diversion for Langza which is just before the Kaza city limits while coming from the Kee/ Kibber side.
Langza is a high-altitude village with views to die for! The scanty little village is identified by the massive Buddha statue at the top. You'll notice this statue as the backdrop for many night photographs. While a lot of people choose to stay at Langza, I found Komic village (descibed below) to be much more beautiful and decided to spend the night there.
Hikkim is a place that must be on your Spiti valley itinerary because it's home to the world's highest post office at 4440 meter. You can buy postcards from the old man selling them on the road when you reach Hikkim or from the cafe/ store right opposite the post office. Keep in mind there's no connectivity here so make sure you get the addresses of your loved ones beforehand. Sending postcards from the world's highest post office in Hikkim is truly a unique and fulfilling experience!
Komic is a remote high-altitude village in Spiti. The Tangyud monastery is the predominant landmark here. This beautiful monastery can be found at the highest point in Komic village. There's a cafe called Spiti Organic Cafe located near the monastery that serves delicious local food. Try the Spiti shahi thali at this cafe if you're looking for authentic local food make from locally grown ingredients in Spiti. You can spend the night at the Not On Maps property which is located right above this cafe.
Day 4 - Dhankar and Tabo
There's a direct road which will take you from Komic to Dhankar without having to go via Kaza. This route will also take you through small relatively lesser known villages.
Dhankar is one of the most extraordinary places I've seen during my Spiti trip. This unbelievable village is perched high on a cliff. It makes you marvel at ancient architectural practices of building homes and monastery by placing them within mountains. In Dhankar, you can visit the Dhankar Gompa, the old monastery and hike to the Dhankar lake. The lake is at a higher altitude than Dhankar village. While I didn't do the hike myself, I was told it's a relatively easy one.
Take the road that goes down from Dhankar to Sichling. It's one of the best stretches of road in all of Spiti. From Sichling, ride for over an hour to reach Tabo. Tabo is one of the places that people either love or dislike - there's no in-between. I, myself, absolutely loved this place. In Tabo you'll find the Kalchakra Stupa with a phenomenal backdrop of barren mountains. There are two monasteries in the same complex - the new and old Tabo monastery. While the new monastery is beautiful, the old monastery is breathtakingly serene and peaceful. With intricate hand-painted walls and a delicate structure, it immediately became my all-time favourite monastery. You'll easily find lots of hotels and home-stays near Tabo monastery to spend the night.
Day 5 - Pin Valley
Now coming to the most striking places in all of Spiti. I met a lot of travellers who skipped Pin valley during their Spiti trip but I urge you to include this place in your Spiti valley itinerary. Now, I didn't get good enough pictures of Pin Valley due to the direction of the sun while we rode here in the evening but I assure you it's the most divine place in all of Spiti. While we were riding to Pin valley, both me and my friend agreed at some parts that it felt like we were in Scotland. Whereas at some other stretches, there were grassy mountains on one side, a river flowing down and a long empty stretch of road ahead of us. Nothing can describle the feeling of being there in that moment.
Mudh Village - Pin Valley
We rode right to Mudh village in Pin valley. The sun had almost set by the time we reached here. There are around 8-10 hotels and home stays on the main road of the village. Some of the good ones we saw were Tara Guest House and Pin Parvati Guest House. Due to lack of availability, we ended up at another home stay just between these two. The stays in this village are very basic and almost all of them have a shared washroom only. So be prepared accordingly. Coming to food, the restaurant at Tara guest house had phenomenal food. We had both dinner and breakfast here itself.
Day 6 - Kaza
Spend your last day at Spiti valley by coming back to Kaza, doing local sightseeing and shopping for souvenirs. The Kaza monastery is an impressive structure that can be seen even from far away. Don't miss out on visiting this one. Next, go to the market near the bus stand where you'll find lots of shops selling flags, key-chains, stickers, fridge magnets and the likes. You can take these back home for friends and family.
Buying Tickets : Kaza to Manali
There are 4 ways of going from Kaza to Manali - hired cab, traveller bus, shared taxi and government bus. Obviously having your own taxi is convenient but it's not cost-effective. Taking a bus is the cheapest option but it can be an exhausting journey that starts way too early in the morning. On the other hand, the shared taxi can get quite crammed up. The best option that I found to go from Kaza to Manali was those little tempo-traveller buses. You get comfortable seats and the cost is quite decent. You can find booking counters near the Kaza bus stand. Come here one day prior to your journey to make a booking.
Day 7 - Manali
You'll start your journey from Kaza at 6 in the morning and reach Manali in 10-12 hours depending on the road conditions. Spend a night (or more) rejuvenating and enjoying getting back cellular connectivity in Manali! I based myself in Old Manali for a few days, staying at Zostel Manali and Alt Life Manali, enjoying the Old Manali vibes. Take a look at this complete Manali travel guide that I've put together based on my 2 visits to Manali.
Day 8 - Delhi
Once you've explored Manali, take an overnight bus to Delhi. You'll find government as well as private buses plying from Manali to Delhi. I took a CabIndia Volvo semi-sleeper AC bus. They provided a blanket in the bus and the journey went quite smoothly.