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Kinnaur is a district in the state of Himachal Pradesh in India. While Himachal in itself is stunningly beautiful, Kinnaur Valley is a whole other world. Lush greenery, bountiful apple orchards and smiling faces are synonymous with this region. This post contains a Kinnaur valley itinerary as well as general useful information for planning a trip to Kinnaur. The places covered are Kalpa, Sangla, Raksham, Chitkul and Nako. Out of these, Kalpa and Chitkul are everyone's favourites and must not be skipped. So let's dive right in and take a look at this Kinnaur valley itinerary!
Best Time to Visit Kinnaur/ Kinnaur Valley Weather
- April to June : This is probably the best time of the year to visit Kinnaur Valley. This is the Spring-Summer time which is when you'll find the best weather in Kinnaur valley. Flowers will be in bloom and the weather will be pleasant.
- July to August : These are the rainy months in Himachal. Rain showers will cause frequent landslides and there's a high chance of flooding as well. It's best to avoid visiting Kinnaur Valley during these months.
- September-October : This is the shoulder season. The weather during this time is neither too hot nor too cold. Besides, there's very little crowd, lots of greenery (since it's just after the rains) and an overall pleasant weather. For me personally, this is the best time to visit Kinnaur Valley.
- November-March : The winter months in Kinnaur can get quite cold with lots of snowfall and chances of roads being closed. With that being said, there are no tourists during this time so if you want to have Kinnaur to yourself, this is the best time of the year to visit the place.
How to Reach Kinnaur
The best way to enter Kinnaur is to reach Shimla first and then go to Reckong Peo. Take a look at the various means of reaching Kinnaur Valley from Delhi and Shimla:
1. By Bus (Public Transport)
If you're coming from Delhi, take an overnight bus to Shimla, which reaches it's destination early in the morning. Now you have 2 options. You can either spend the day at Shimla and take another bus next morning or you can leave from Shimla for Reckong Peo immediately. Reckong Peo is the district headquarters of Kinnaur. From here, you'll find buses to all major places in Kinnaur such as Kalpa, Sangla, Chitkul, Nako as well as buses to Spiti.
2. By Train or Flight
For visiting Kinnaur, the nearest railway station and airport are both located in Shimla itself. You can take the Kalka-Shimla toy train and thus enjoy a picturesque journey or you can take a direct flight to Shimla. Once you reach Shimla, there's only one option to travel to Kinnaur, which is by road.
3. By Road
If you have your own vehicle, whether it is a bike or car, you can enjoy a hassle-free journey by driving to Reckong Peo via Shimla yourself. Do keep in mind that in Kinnaur, you'll only find a petrol pump at Reckong Peo. So make sure you fill your tank up and carry extra fuel in case you'll need it.
What to Pack for Kinnaur Valley
Generally speaking, always be prepared for a little bit of cold weather, unless you're travelling to Kinnaur right during the summer months. Light t-shirts, pants and jeans should work just fine. If you're going in September-October, you'll need a light sweater and jacket. During the winter months, be prepared for snow and thus pack accordingly.
Cost of Trip to Kinnaur Valley
The cost of your trip will depend on your mode of transportation. If you're going to be using public transportation throughout the trip, you can easily budget under INR 10k. However, if you book a taxi, the daily cost will keep adding to your trip. On the other hand, if you have your own vehicle, the cost of fuel will add to the cost of your trip. In any case, it's easy to find budget accommodation in Kinnaur. Moreover, the cost of food here is minimal as well. These are major cost saving factors for a Kinnaur trip.
Itinerary for Trip to Kinnaur Valley
Day 1 - Delhi to Shimla
Take an overnight bus from Kashmiri Gate to Shimla. HRTC runs a number of buses between Delhi and Shimla. Taking a semi-sleeper AC volvo bus would be a comfortable way to spend the journey. Nonetheless there are different types of buses ranging according to various levels of comfort and budget. The bus will drop you at Shimla during the early hours of the morning, just in time to witness the sunrise.
Day 2 - Shimla
You will arrive at Shimla early in the morning. It's best to find a place to stay near the new ISBT Tutikandi bus stand itself because you need a catch the early morning bus to Reckong Peo the next day.
Where to Stay in Shimla
I found a home-stay just a few meters ahead of the new Shimla bus stand, for the sake of convenience. The name of the home stay was Star A-One homestay, run by a nice fellow. He allowed me to check-in much before the standard time and woke up early next day when I had to check-out. There were a wide range of rooms, each one being spacious, modern and clean.
Places to Visit in Shimla
You can cover all of the major Shimla sightseeing places within 1 day. Take a local bus from the new bus stand (near which you'll be staying) to the old bus stand. From here, walk to the mall road. At the mall road you can visit The Ridge, Christ Church, City Point and Viceregal Lodge.
Day 3 - Kalpa
Journey: Shimla - Reckong Peo - Kalpa
From Shimla you will get early morning buses to Reckong Peo. I took a bus at 4 am. This allowed me to reach Reckong Peo and then Kalpa early enough to explore the place. There are buses every hour from Reckong Peo to Kalpa. Although Kalpa is located just 5 km uphill from Reckong Peo, it's a sleep slope which takes half an hour to cover.
Where to Stay in Kalpa
I highly recommend staying at the upper side of Kalpa village. Once you arrive at Kalpa, just ask anyone for the stairs to go up. These stairs will open up to a road from where you'll get to see a panoramic view of Kalpa village with a backdrop of the Kinner Kailash range. There are numerous hotels on this road. I stayed at Hotel Parvati which had decent rooms and a balcony to enjoy the views.
Places to Visit in Kalpa
There's very little to do in Kalpa village itself. There's one temple and a monastery in close proximity to each other. If you're visiting Kalpa in September, you'll see apple blooms everywhere which is great for photographing. You can even hike to the nearby Roghi village to take a look at the famous Roghi suicide point.
Day 4 - Sangla
Journey: Kalpa - Reckong Peo - Sangla
I had a leisurely breakfast at Kalpa and then took a bus at around 10 am for Reckong Peo. The bus journey hardly took 15 minutes, since it was going downhill. Next, from Reckong Peo I took the 12 pm bus for Sangla. The bus reached Sangla within 2 hours. There was a nice restaurant right next to the bus stand where I had my lunch and then proceeded to find a hotel.
Reckong Peo to Sangla - Bus at 9.30 am, 12 pm and 4 pm
Where to Stay in Sangla
When you arrive at Sangla bus stand, you'll see a little bridge to the right. Once you cross that bridge there's a hotel right there called Baspa River View. Its close proximity to the bus stand attracted me. The room had a comfortable bed and 2 blankets, which was just what I needed. They have rooms in 2 budgets and a small terrace.
Places to Visit in Sangla
Now here's where it gets interesting. Most people who visit Kinnaur tend to ignore Sangla assuming there isn't much to do here. On the contrary, I found Sangla to be just as interesting as any other place in Kinnaur Valley, if not a little more. Take a look at some of the places to visit in Sangla:
1. Bering Nag Temple
Being Nag Temple was one of the most delightful experiences of my trip to Kinnaur valley. The temple complex houses a Buddhist monastery as well. A local told me that you'll find Hinduism and Buddhism co-exiting only in Kinnaur. While in Sangla, I was lucky enough to be there during the local Phulech festival.
2. Trout Fish Farm
This was one of my favorite things to do in Sangla valley. The hike from Sangla to the Trout fish farm takes you through bridges, small villages, apple orchards and pine trees. The sight is something out of a fairytale! I stopped by at one of the bridges on the way to dip my feet in the river and enjoy the freshness in the air.
3. Kamru Fort
Kamru Fort is located right at the top of the Kamru village, approximately 5 km from Sangla. The walk up to Kamru can get a little exhausting so if you're one who doesn't enjoy hikes, you can hire a vehicle to drop you there. Once at Kamru, you'll get a beautiful view of the Sangla valley.
Day 5 - Raksham
Journey: Sangla - Raksham
The same bus which brought you to Sangla will go further towards Chitkul, stopping on the way at Raksham (aka Rakchcham, Rakcham). If you wish you leave earlier, take the bus which leaves at 11 am from Sangla. While the distance from Sangla to Raksham isn't much, the roads here are in bad condition and quite dangerous as well. Thus the journey takes almost an hour.
Where to Stay in Raksham
There are many riverside camps in Raksham. One of the camps I visited was called Kailash View Camp. From the bus stand, walk towards the bridge whhich will take you to the other side of the river. This camp is the first one on the road.
Things to do in Raksham
Raksham is an idyllic little village with very little to do. If you're here during August-September, you'll see all of Raksham covered in orange and pink blossoms. Take long walks or short hikes to find the best vantage points to photograph these blooms. You'll notice that any itinerary for Kinnaur valley usually ignores Raksham but I highly recommend visiting this gem of a place if you're looking for an offbeat place or if you're taking a trip to Kinnaur during August-September.
Day 6 - Chitkul
Journey: Raksham - Chitkul
Once again, the bus which goes from Reckong Peo to Sangla and Raksham will end it's journey at Chitkul. When you reach Raksham from Sangla, take note of the time at which the bus reaches. Be there at the same spot a little earlier than the time you noted to catch the same bus to Chitkul the next day.
Where to Stay in Chitkul
There are limited options in Chitkul, since it's a small village on the India-Tibet border. I stayed at Zostel Chitkul which was a wonderful property where I met tons of other travellers that I ended up travelling to Spiti. The place can get really popular around the weekends. I saw a lot of people going back disappointed because the entire hostel was booked out. Thankfully, I had made prior reservations.
Things to do in Chitkul
One of the best parts about Chitkul is that there's no network connectivity here whatsoever. This village is so beautiful that you can spend days here completely disconnected from the outside world. There are a few hikes that you can do around Chitkul. You can even walk up to the first check-post on the India-Tibet border. Apart from that, visit Hindustan ka Akhri Dhaba for a hearty Indian meal. From here, you can find a short-cut to go down to the bridge. Cross that bridge and explore the other side. It's breathtakingly beautiful.
Is Chitkul Open in March?
This seems to be a popular and common question asked by people who are looking at making a Chitkul trip. The answer totally depends on the weather conditions. Yes, Chitkul will be accessible but the ease of getting here depends on the snow on the road. If there's heavy snowfall, some roads might be closed. Besides, even hotels may not be readily available in Chitkul in March if water pipes are frozen. So I suggest looking at the Kinnaur weather conditions before travelling.
Day 7 - Chitkul
In all honesty, just one day is not enough to take in the beauty and freshness of Chitkul. Definitely keep at-least another day to explore and relax at Chitkul before you head further. In fact, I met travellers who had even spent up-to a week in Chitkul! I myself spent 3 days here exploring every nook and cranny of Chitkul. And that's why I've given Chitkul one extra day in this Kinnaur valley itinerary.
Day 8 - Nako
Journey: Chitkul - Reckong Peo - Nako
Take the early morning 6.30 am bus from Chitkul to Reckong Peo. The bus stops briefly at Sangla for breakfast then continues to its destination. You'll reach Reckong Peo in 3-4 hours. From Reckong Peo, take the 12 pm bus to Nako. This bus goes to Shoja via Sumdo, Pooh and Nako.
Where to Stay in Nako
There's no shortage of hotels and homestays in Nako. Although it's a tiny village, you'll see lots of travellers and activity going on. I stayed at Lovon Hotel which was right at the entrance of Nako. The room was spacious and clean and had a balcony overlooking the valley. What's more, the in-house restaurant serves delicious spring rolls!
Things to do in Nako
There's very little to do in Nako. It's known predominantly for the Nako lake. The locals believe it to be a sacred lake. This lake looks stunning with the village on one side and barren hills on the other. You can walk up at a nearby hill to get a nice view of the lake. Apart from that, you can visit the Nako monastery as well.
Day 9 - Nako to Reckong Peo
You can start your return journey on the 9th day. However, if you're going to Spiti, you'll find a Kaza bound bus from Nako at 10 am. On the other hand, if you're returning back, take the bus which goes from Kaza to Reckong Peo via Nako. Spend the night at a hotel close to the bus stand at Reckong Peo.
Day 10 - Reckong Peo to Delhi
You'll get a morning bus going from Reckong Peo to Delhi at the bus stand. Make sure you note down the timing of the bus the previous day and arrive early enough to get a seat in the bus.