Some journeys are etched in our hearts forever and we tell you Spiti tops that list. Separated from Kullu by the Rohtang and Kunzum Pass, Lahaul and Spiti lies on the Manali-Leh highway. Treacherous as it is, the roads to Spiti are inaccessible during winters due to the harsh climate and heavy snowfall, but come summers and after crossing a few obstacles, reaching Spiti is just fine. Add to that the excitement that awaits us, the anticipation takes a romantic form. Dissipated you may say!
Let’s figure out the routes to Spiti and pick up the one that indulges us more.
Route 1: Take the route to spiti via Kinnaur through Hindustan-Tibet Highway
This route is best enjoyed with a little bit of patience and an open mind. The Hindustan-Tibet Highway gets as surprising as it can. The road to Spiti via Shimla takes you through various interesting places. Just tickle the explorer in you!
The best bet is to arrive at Shimla via Delhi or Chandigarh through an overnight bus – saves time and energy. Spend a day at Shimla if you will or leave for Kinnaur; there are many public and private buses running from 5 AM to 8PM. You may also spend the day exploring Shimla and take an overnight bus to Reckong Peo, the headquarters of Kinnaur district.
The other option is to hire a shared or private taxi. Bargaining skills will come handy with the taxi drivers!
If you are driving on your own, SUV is a must. Be cautious of the landslides and rough terrains, although self-driving will be fantastic and more convenient if you want to soak in the pleasure of taking a stop here and there.
Route 2: Take the route to spiti via Manali
Grab a seat at advantage to soak in the picturesque landscapes waiting to overwhelm you, you will enjoy this route to Spiti like none other. And why not? The beautiful Rohtang Pass and the mesmerising Kunzum Pass is at your welcome.
Like route 1, you may take a private or a public bus from Manali and reach Kaza through Rohtang Pass and Kunzum Pass. There are buses that leave Manali at around 5 AM in the morning to Kaza.
Again, depending on those acquired bargaining skills, hire a private taxi, to take the journey ahead. Or drive down those tricky roads to Spiti.
A few more points to keep in mind before you take your wheels out on to those roads. Better be prepared than be sorry!
The route to Spiti from Manali to Kaza opens mid-June and closes on 15 October. The track turns tricky as soon you cross Rohtang and take the turn at Gramphoo. With several water crossings, it keeps getting worse. The road between Gramphoo and Losar can be quite dangerous, thanks to no civilisation around. The worst stretch is between Chhatru and Batal, where you would be driving on a riverbed with huge boulders.
The route to Spiti from Shimla is a lot better with metaled but narrow roads. The real adventure starts after Tapri. The major problem with this route is the constant landslides. It is advisable to leave very early from your night stop in Kinnaur.
Avoid your sedans or hatchbacks on to these roads, however tempting it is to take the drive!
Route 1: Foreign nationals need an Inner Line Permit to visit many areas close to the international borders. They are issued by the District Magistrate office in Reckong Peo, Kullu, Keylong and Shimla.
Route 2: You have to get a ‘Beyond Rohtang’ permit for your vehicle from. If you are a foreigner, you would require an Inner Line Permit to visit areas near the Sumdo, which you can get easily from the Special District Magistrate’s office in Kaza.
Leave as early as 4 AM from Manali (if you are taking this route) to avoid getting stuck in the Rohtang traffic, considering the peak tourist season in Manali. Watch out for the small, easy-to-miss signboard for Gramphoo.
Where to eat
Route 1: Eating options are plenty, so food is not going to be your problem.
Route 2: Stock up with packed ready-to-eat food, because as soon you cross Marhi, food options get limited. If you see a group of people at a local food joint, take the stop and fill that tummy of yours. Otherwise, Chhatru, Batal and Losar are your only options.
Word of Closure
Spiti is extraordinary and very, very inviting but it requires planning and caution to avoid any unnecessary hassle. Just follow the basic rules and you would take a journey to remember!