Shimla to Kaza – A Road Review

Its not very common for me to not rush my road-reviews. Yeah thats two nots, read again. Its not very common for me to not rush my road-reviews. But as you grow up (and old) you sort of start to mellow down. In my case I would still blame on office-work, home-work, in-transit-work for my procrastination rather then this mellow philosophy, after all in the end we did drive all the way from Delhi-to-Shimla-to-Kaza-to-Manali-to-Delhi. So here’s a road review of Shimla-Kaza circuit. Delhi-Shimla is already covered here and any updates on that route are best to be found there.

Shimla-Kaza is a long one and its not a single day-light drive. We did in two parts, first Thanedaar-Sangla and then Sangla-Kaza. Both took a great part of day.

img_1073
Himalaya, Rocky Mountain High

The route can be divided into following 7 sections

1. Shimla – Rampur
2. Rampur – Wangtu – Karchham
3. Karchham – Espillo
4. Espillo – Khab
5. Khab – Nako
6. Nako – Chango – Sumdoh
7. Sumdoh – Tabo – Dhankar – Kaza

1. Shimla – Rampur
Distance – 100+ KMs , Driving Time – 2 hours 30 minutes

As you approach Shimla, you would find a fork, the right of which goes to Rampur via Shimla-bypass. It seemed like a obvious choice but our confirm-at-next-turn experience made us take a U turn. When we asked few bus drivers, we were almost forced to go back since the bypass road is much more longer or so it was told. As a result of that U turn, we entered Simla city, after a while took a left which goes through a tunnel kind of thing and then it was Simla everywhere. Being the capital city, Simla is pretty big and if not it being a hill, it would compete very closely with other bigger towns in terms of overall chaos, garbage, haphazard development and what not. We had started from our home at Indirapuram, Ghaziabad sometime around 0530 hrs and it was already beyond 2, so we ignored the city and after a 30 minute slow but moving drive, we carried on towards our destination of the day viz. Thanedar.

Thanedar is the apple country of India and I would try to do that story separately. As we went past Kufri, I called up the hotel guys and was told that it would be at least 3 hours away, so we stopped for lunch at the roadside dhaba. It was a fairly clean dhaba and our steward-waiter had this high-pitch tone, made us wonder that probably Pankaj Kapoor researched this accent for ‘The Blue Umbrella‘.

We reached Thanedar which is not on main highway and left next morning at around 1000 hrs. We were on inside roads and with couple of clean-the-windshield-using-stream-water and giving a lift to a lady, ensure that we spent close to 2 hours before we joined NH22 again. It was lovely driving through winding inner roads, flanked with apple orchards, with no traffic and hardly any movement.

As we drove further, the road gets wider and better. There is a large Power Plant thing being done and from now till Spillow, power plants were constantly accompanying us, seemed as if HP is going to be the power capital of the world. Gradually Pines gave way to Eucalyptus and it was difficult to believe that we are really in Hills. Later we figured out that Rampur is at 900-1000 m while Shimla is at 2200-2300 meter. Thats quite a gap.

So courtesy non winding wide roads, we picked up speed and with in no time we found ourselves at Rampur. Rampur seemed more industrious then Simla.

2. Rampur – Wangtu – Karchham
Distance – 70 Kms , Driving Time – 2 hours

welcome-to-kinnaur

We were now in Kinnaur. AS we approach Wangtu, you would encounter a massive power plant project by JayPee group. Roads are all gone, probably for a better future. You gain height and roads jutting out of rocks becomes a more common sight. As you go further from Simla, the vehicle density keeps going down and while there were lot of truck movement because of power project, we started to see less of roadways buses, jeeps and other local transport.

welcome-to-kinnaur

The landscape is green, rocky and big. The canvas is beginning to grow and you now can see far and wide. We took a break post Wangtu and had our thought-fully packed-lunch which our hotel guys gave us. It took just a small request to a small sweets shop to let us sit inside and have our food. We did try to buy a coke and few munchies to keep him in good humor but guess that was not needed. We carried on. Its so much different to be in a shop with no rush. A couple was enjoying the soda pop waiting for the next bus, the guy must be in late twenties and from the conversation which I could gather, he seemed to be in a mood to stretch it and ensured by convincing his partner to skip the bus which came while we were not done with our food.

More of Kinnaur in Pics. Its beautiful.

kinnaur-3

kinnaur-2

kinnaur

A note for my fellow ghumakkar, biker dude, Indians do not need to take any permit in Recong Po or infact till Kaza, as you pass through Espillo you do need to get registered and again at Sumdoh.

Our destination of the day was Sangla, a beautiful valley and Karchham was our point of detour. The road from Karchham to Sangla is best left unaccounted. Well, its a single lane narrow road with a gorge on one side and towering rocks on the other. The road is as winding as it would want to be and if there is an oncoming vehicle and if you are on the gorge side, well it does test your nerve. A miss or a slip or a push can make things end. Sorry to scare you but if you are ever going towards Sangla, ensure that you reach Karchham when its broad day light.

When we reached our camp, it was almost 5 PM, it was heartening to listen to other folks on how dangerous the drive was. You are never alone.

3. Karchham – Espillo – Khab
Distance – 80 Kms , Driving Time – 2 hours 30 minutes

You come back to Rakccham to join the main road which would be with you till Sumdoh. There is hardly any traffic till Rakccham but as you hit it, the power-plant-caravan catches up. Keep driving among tall mountains, an accompanying river to keep the monotony away.

pooh

Take extra caution to fill-up the tank at Powari since that’s the only petrol station you would find before Kaza. It was noon and we passed several very small villages which in fact could hardly be noticed but owing to a little bit rough terrain, hills and almost none traffic, we were not going too quick. Sometimes absence of rush makes you go slow, strange.

karchham-pooh

karchham-espillo

On the way, you see some of the huge falls, portions of roads which have never seen two vehicles side-by-side ever, since their width can’t accommodate them (ok ok.. poor joke, move on) , tall huge rocky mountains, a LOT of clear Sun and occasionally a snow-peak. I am not a sun-glass guy but sometimes its so bright that you better use them.

towads-espillo

It was not too late when we reached Espillo and there you get into the protected zone. There is a small barricade and you log your credentials with the Army there. A small quick conversation and we move further. Its gets more lonenly post Espillo.

5. Espillo – Khab
See 4.

espillo-onwards

Though the distance is not too much for this section but I would rate this section as the most demanding. It could see the best of your patience, grit and perseverance. The driver in you need to take the front seat and the video-gamer would have to wait for a while. This section has the famous Khab zig.

khab-zig

As you go further and survive some of the real bad patches, you notice that you have started climbing. And after a while you would see that you are actually going in a zig pattern with one side having a not-so-high mountain rubble wall and the other side down-looking at the previous zig-arm which you just left. Though this may not sound too harsh but each arm of zig is fairly long, probably a Km or may be less so at that scale you are climbing and as you would have guessed its a 1.5 lane road. So if you get company from the other side and you are on the dont-look-down side of zig, you have it. Its not uncommon to occasionally run into a Army caravan with their ‘Shaktimaans’ in a big long line.

towards-ka

The views though makes up for the challenges. There are more than many places where you can pull in and take a eye full of the mammoth surroundings. I say mammoth because the mountains are like real big tall huge mountains, the Himalayas, you can see as far as you want to, as deep as you want to and sometimes feel strange to find just you, your spouse and your 4 year old as a company.

khab

You get that ‘Waiting for Godot’ kind of feeling and you really don’t think that this road can ever go to a dusty town, it might appear so much of out-of-world that you better try to get out of it and start driving again.

We tried to capture the zig. Look at pictures and try to get the scale.

You go all the way up and are at 3000 mtr, the place is called Ka, I believe. The snow peaks are at the same eye-level. Just be there, look around, feel special and move on.

6. Khab – Chango – Sumdoh
Distance – 40 Kms , Driving Time – 1 hour

khab-sumdo

Khab has nothing more than a few auto shops but there is a village down the road, a monastery where you can stay for the night and I believe some lodges. We kept moving and noticed a raised hand looking for a lift. We let her in. She was with us till Chhango, another village few KMs away. I was surprised to find her speak very good Hindi and we got wiser about the local terrain and ways. We bid goodbye to her at Chhango and gave ride to another lady with a small baby. We drove a few meters and noticed these two backpackers. I stopped and they requested for a ride till Tabo. The journey from Khab to Nako sees much more habitation but you are really in an arid land now and you can’t miss it. We dropped the lady with the baby at some place and our conversation with the two backpakkers continued. The roads are good, not too wide but its simpler to drive, you do get long stretches of straight strip of tar.


Booking.com


khab-sumdo-2

The guy was Peter and the lady was called Lucy, with such common names, you would not believe them assuming that it can’t be true, reminds of Badal Sircar’s ‘Evam Indrajit’ play where the protagonist says that his name is Nirmal when the other three who are accompanying him are called Amal, Vimal and Kamal. Peter and Lucy are originally from Czech but working in Afghanistan. For last three months they have been traveling in India and it was probably their 4th or 8th trip. They were with an NGO and take up assignments, save money, get out to travel. Because of their extensive traveling there were very well versed with India, Indian names, a bit of culture and all that. We did share our common interest around ***ching things we do not like.

Now we were traveling amid total arid, rubble mountains. The area looks more like a part of China than India, from names to features and probably that’s what this whole country is all about, with varied cultures, varied terrains and what not.

sumdo

At Sumodh, we stopped again to get our vehicle registration logged. Peter and Lucy had to undergo a little more detailed procedure since their permit needed to be scrutinized. All this happened in not so much time and we moved towards Tabo by 4ish.

7. Tabo – Dhankar – Kaza
Distance – 60 Kms , Driving Time – 1 hour 30 minutes

tabo-kaza

Their being with us ensured that we got the much needed company and its not much a distance to cover from Tabo to Kaza where it would be back to three of us. We dropped them at Tabo where they were to stay there for the night at the Monastery and were planning to be at Dhankar the next day and finally at Kaza. Tabo looked like a small town with a Buddhist gateway welcoming you. Not many rather any people.

We quickly shot this assuming its a Yak. True City people. Its a cow.
We quickly shot this assuming its a Yak. True City people. Its a cow.

From Tabo, it was to be to Dhankar. You keep going, it was getting dark by now but now we could find longer stretches of straight strips. Dhankar came and went as another small clean town with the Monastery and the last leg was spent wondering on how Kaza would be.

dhankar-to-kaza

It was almost dark, 7 PM or so, when we entered Kaza and it took a bit of asking around to reach our destination. When I finally reached our hotel, and shook hands with the manager, It was hard to imagine that we have come that kind of distance from Delhi.

The Kaza-Manali, the reason for which we did all of this was still left and the roads were not yet open. As I lay flat in the bed, looking around the humble room, with all our bags scattered and my spouse giving some hot-water leg-massage to our 4 year old, it was getting difficult to believe that we have finally made it.

Thanks for reading this far. A day well spent.

256 Comments

  • katarzyna says:

    Hi Nandan,

    We would like to ask you for help us.Me and my husband would like to travel across Kinnaur and Spiti valleys from Shimla to Manali.Do you have any information how to do this?How to get transport and how much does it costs?If you have any information please send us
    Regards from Poland,
    Katarzyna

  • nandanjha says:

    Hey Katarzyna,

    Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    What kind of transport you would prefer
    – Buses. Government ones cost least but can be very discomforting. Private ones are better. I wont recommend but its a different experience using local mode of transport.

    Government transport is run by HPRTC ( Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation) and you can access time-table, availability from their website

    http://hrtc.gov.in/route.asp

    Shimla to Kaza is quite a distance away and I am guessing that you would make multiple stops. Usually you can find HRTC buses between most of the place and if there is no bus then there are other means (shared Jeeps etc). A HRTC ticket for an ordinary bus (non air conditioned) costs less than Rs 500 (less than USD 10).

    – Taxi. Rates would depend on your itinerary. Give me some more details. If you take a taxi from Shimla and keep it with you for a longer period and plan to return back to Shimla then the going rate is

    Rs 8 – Rs 12 per kilometer for a Tata Indica + Rs 150 – 250 per night.

    My suggestion would be to involve your hotel guy while booking the taxi and negotiate with him. A taxi through the hotel would carry a premium but its more safer.

    Let me know more details and I would try my best to answer you.

    I usually drive myself so I do not have a rich first-hand experience of buses etc. If it is ok, I can write at your e-mail address directly. Let me know. Bye – Nandan

  • Anando says:

    very detailed article, loved it. Will print it out when I go for my own trip. I am planning to make this trip to in my car (ALONE) lol. I just wanted if I am going in offseason say end of feb early march do I need to do hotel bookings or is it cool to just drive off?

  • Dhara says:

    Hello Nandan,
    I and my husband are planning holidays in Himachal in march end, and i am really interested in visiting spiti valley. we have around 12 days. as its winter time, I got information that we should try from shimla. can you help regarding, wheather it is a good idea to do this in March? will there be acomodation available in kaza and other placed during this time? and any more information you can share regarding how to travel – will local mode of transport available all time? we are planning to come from pune-delhi-shimla and than further I am still researching.
    it will be great if you can share some information.
    thanks
    dhara

  • Nandan says:

    @ Dhara – Mar end would be COLD. I know enough people who love it when its nippy so if you can take it, there is nothing like ‘an off season’ for true travelers.

    For 12 days, you can do a good relaxed mountains+monastery kind of trip. Starting with Simla and then going all the way till Kaza with a big stop-over at Sangla and then may be at Kalpa, Ka, followed by Kaza. When I did this, I drove to Manali from Kaza and did’t come back via the same road. That road is only open for 2-3 months beginning June. There are enough places mid way so you wont necessarily have to double-do a place.

    If you are not so keen on piti and if you are not a ‘Cold Loving’ person, then I am sure there could be other places which you can do in HP.

  • chandan says:

    hello Nandan,

    Me and my family of eight people are deciding to go to the spiti(specifically kaza) valley in mid-june.I saw it on the net and really looking forward for it.So can u help me by suggesting the places to visit,where to halt,what are the road conditions at present.I think of planning the trip for about 6-7days.
    It will be very nice of you if you reply at the earliest.

    thanks
    chandan gupta

  • Nandan says:

    @ Chandan ,

    I am guessing that you are staring from Delhi and would be using Road for complete journey. Kaza is little far so you would need at least one (two is better) halt. If you do not spend two days at that halt then it may be too short. If you only have 6-7 days, then I guess it would get very tight and hectic since you have to come back from Kaza as well :-)

    Also, can you please tell me on whether the family of 8 includes senior citizens. Kaza is a high altitude area.

    • Peeyush says:

      hi,

      i am planning a trip to kaza from Delhi (either go up via manali and come back via shimla with a day or two in Sangla or the reverse).
      period: June end
      Duration: 8 days
      Travellers: Couple + 7 year old + 7 month old
      Vehicle: swift diesel

      can you suggest some watch outs for us on weather conditions to expect, places to stay and the routes to use.

      regards
      peeyush

      • Nandan says:

        @ Peeyush – Watch out for road and underbelly of Swift between Manali and Kaza. 8 days is short to make the most of it, try to see if you can get at least 2-3 more days. I am not too worried on the weather part but its a long haul and you might not get enough time to acclimatize.

  • Lokesh says:

    Hi Nandan,

    It was great reading through your itenary. I am planning a trip with some of my friends in June, third week. We will be on bikes (Enfield) with pillions and would also be followed by a car. We are planning a trip of about 10 days. Your post is very detailed but I am worried about stays (there would be some girls travelling with us so need to be careful). What pre-arrangments can be made for over night stay enroute Kaza and how expensive will it be? Also, is it safe enough to travel from Kaza to Manali (the roads don’t seem too promising)?

  • Nandan says:

    Thanks Lokesh for the encouraging comments.

    1. Stays – We stayed at Banjara properties (at Thanedar, at Sangla and at Kaza) and they were all very nice. This circuit sees international traffic as well so I would imagine that you should not have problem finding good stays. Beyond Sangla, I have heard that one can stay at Monastries as well (Ka for example).

    Banjara is on the expensive side so if it works for you then pre-book and you are good to go. They have two more places, Kalpa and one more, to choose from apart from the three which I mentioned above.

    2. Safety – Kaza to Manali : If this group has been to few biking long trips to mountains (at least till Manali or beyond Simla) then you would be able to do it without much problem. There would be a car for any backup and other bikes.

    I would really need to know more about the group to suggest better. All the best.

  • Gaurav says:

    hi nandan,
    It was great reading through your itenary.i am planning abike trip from ludiana to kaza via shimla.
    Possibly dates are 23may to 30may2011.We are two friends on one bike.i just want to know about the road conditionsof this route.Also suggest me places to be visit,where to haltand some other pre arrangements.
    It will be very nice of you if you reply at the earliest.
    thanks,
    Gaurav

  • Nandan says:

    @ Gaurav – Thanks. From Ludhiana, the safe and more-predicatable connection to Shimla is via Chandigarh. The roads are in excellent condition. When I look at maps, I see a way to bypass Chandigarh (take left at Dhoom Chhedi towards Kurali, leading to Subathu) and I am not sure on the road conditions. My guess would be that it would be good. I always prefer a country-side road over a maddening highway rush so take the inner road.

    Beyond Simla, roads are mostly good except some stretches where JP Power projects are going on (Recong Po etc) but overall its good.

    Places to Halt – You only have one week so you would have to do long hauls. My suggestion would be Ludhiana – Simla – Sangla – Kaza – Kalpa – Narkanda – Ludhiana. If you can find two more days than that would be great since Kaza is at high altitude and its recommended to stay there for at least 3 days , if not 4.

    Also Kaza-Manali connection would not be open so you would have to tread back same way.

    Request to all – Please update the road conditions and any other tips if you make the trip. I would love to suggest but its a great encouragement (and a show-off) if I know that it has been useful for you.

  • Lokesh says:

    Thank you Nandan for the information. Not all of us have made such trips but I am sure we will pull through this. Will surely share our experience once we are back from the trip.

    Must say once again that your post is really very exhaustive and informative unlike many that i have read.

    Take care and will soon get in touch with you.

  • jiturajgor says:

    This is really an informative post.I have a question.Do you suggest that post bypass person of age 50 can go up to Kaza by private taxi?Is it safe.Health is good otherwise.

  • Nandan says:

    @ Jiturajgor – Most certainly Sir. Please read following story where VPDa has traveled all the way to Kaza and Leh and beyond.

    http://www.ghumakkar.com/2011/05/19/car-trip-delhi-leh-srinagar-part-2/

  • Tarun says:

    hi,
    we are planning road trip delhi to kaza via shimla so we need to know about the stay in between the route and road conditions with limitations.

    thanks and regards
    Tarun arora

  • Nandan says:

    @ Tarun – You should be able to find a good answer in the comments above. If you do make it, then please come back and update the road conditions here. Best Wishes.

  • Aroopam says:

    Hi Nandan,

    From your writing I can feel what a refreshing and adventurous trip you made.
    Me and my wife are planning to do a Delhi-Shimla-Kaza-Manali-Delhi drive in August.
    I’ll be taking an Indica and I hope it’ll be comfortable enough.
    Please send your views.

    Thanks
    Aroopam

  • Nandan says:

    Hi Aroopam,

    Yes we had more adventure than needed :-)

    Indica would work great. There are many stretches which are sparsely populated so plan your journey accordingly. Keep some extra buffer and try to finish all your drives during day-light. All the best and I hope to hear from you as make the trip.

    Best,
    Nandan

  • Hi all,

    Greetings ! We organise special Taxi tours from Shimla – Manali for Kaza, Spiti , Leh Ladakh Jeep Safari Tours.

    I hope to see you in next season of 2012 !

    Wishes,

    Rajneesh Sharma

  • shekhar says:

    Hi Nandan,

    Greetings

    Truly Impressive ,i had been to leh aug 2011 but due to time restraints i had to fly in to leh.i would like to kaza from shimla in april 2012 and then followed by kaza-leh.i have a few questions and feel you to be the best answer to it.

    1.would the roads to kaza from shimla be open in april(mid to end april)
    2.ideally what should be the no.of days to to spend in kaza and enroute
    3.if you could tell me the enroute stop overs for sight seeing and adventures
    4.if you could share your hotel experience enroute kaza and kaza to manali
    5.and if you have some more personal valuable suggestions to make i’m going in for a photography spree any suggestiong of any particular places enroute and also in and around kaza.
    6.any good tour operator you would suggest

    would eagerly wait for reply

    • Nandan says:

      Thanks for the undue praise Shekhar. Here are my thoughts.

      1. Roads would be open but the entire region beyond Kinnaur would be freezing, so I wont recommend.
      2. Shima to Kaza – 1 week is pretty good. 10 days is better.
      3. Sangla including Chitkul, Kalpa, Kaza
      4. I stayed at Banjara hotels. Very impressive but a bit pricey.
      5. If you can push your travel by a couple of months, then you can do Shimla-Kaza-Manali else you would have to return from the same route.
      6. One of my friend/Ghumakkar does Photography tours (very few, very focused). He did one this year too for Spiti. Leave a comment on any of his stories (http://www.ghumakkar.com/author/arunchs) and you should hear back.

      Anytime is good for travel. Best wishes.

  • Anando says:

    I had tried to make it till kaza with only a back pack and few thousand rupees. Didnt work very well. I took a local bus from shimla. After finally get a place to stand in a bus, the bus got 3 tyre punctures and a broken down truck. The trip from shimla to reckon peo which should take 10-12 hours took 16 hrs. Along with that, I am extremely allergic to smoke and dust so by the time I reached reckong peo I had a severe allergy attack. I took a taxi to Kalpa and got into the HPDTC hotel and took me 4 days to get back on feet. After few days more I returned home to Delhi. Will retry the trip but this time in my own car. Taxis are crazy expensive, 7k-8k one way from Reckong peo to Shima. You can stand by the taxi stand at shimla lakkar bazaar and try to bargain with a taxi, indica or smaller taxis like that can take you for 5500 but nothing less than that. One deluxe bus comes from Chandigarh but there is no guarantee you will get seat in that …and no bloody person knows when the bus will come. The lakkar bazaar bus stand ticket box is like a rabid bee hive, I would be surprised if you can get in that chaos to buy a ticket. Spare yourself the trouble, want to visit the beautiful place? Go in your own car.

  • Sreyo says:

    Hi,

    I am planning to go to in Spiti Valley during the last week of April(starting 23rd ).I plan to start from Delhi and have 10 days to make it back to Delhi.Could you please give me an idea about the following?

    What route should I take from Delhi and if roads are going to be open during the this period?
    A ballpark idea about the cost for two people for 10 days?
    Which places in spiti valley would be accessible to us?

    Thanks

  • Nandan says:

    Hi Sreyo,

    Thanks for visiting.

    1. Kaza-Manali is closed so you can not do the full circuit i.e. Delhi-Kaza-Manali-Delhi but you can always do Delhi-Kaza-Delhi via the same/similar route both ways. The recommended route is same as in this post. Delhi-Shimla-Narkanda-Sangla (detour)-Ka-Kaza.

    2. It is an off season so you should be able to get a good double for <1500 at all the remote places. Travel by self vehicle is not more than Rs 6 per KM and more if you take a taxi. Buses are cheaper. Take a budget of at least 25K for two people. (minus shopping)

    3. Most of tourist Spiti would be accessible.

    All the best.

  • jaishree says:

    nandan,

    what kind of weather should I expect in mid-May?

    We have full seven days ex-Shimla, and planing to visit only Sangla, Chitkul, and Kalpa. What should be the days and places of stay there.

    • Nandan says:

      Mid May would be ‘Cold’. Days are sunny in most of the Himalayas during May but evenings and night would be cold. We would know more once we hear back from Shekhar.

      Sangla + Chitkul – 3 days. Make it 4 if you are reaching late in the evening and planning to start early when you leave.
      Kalpa – 2 days are enough

      Banjara property at Sangla is good but can be a bit pricey. Chitkul doesn’t have great options to stay. Its is a easy 1.5 (thats what I remember) drive from Sangla so you do not need to stay at Chitkul, necessarily.

  • shekhar says:

    hi jaishree,

    i knw this q was not directed to me and sorry rajneesh for intervening but i’m going to kaza this 20th nd will be back on the 5th may ,i would b able to give u a near exact weather report ..till then

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  • bbver says:

    Dear Nandan,

    Thanks for very detailed information. I am planning to visit Shimla-Kaza in first week of June in Indica. We will be 4 person – one couple and two boys of 14 and 17 yrs. Do you think we can do the Shimla – Kaza – Manali – Delhi circuit in 10-12 days in Indica ?

    • Anando says:

      I had gone uptill Kalpa,reckong peo in a bus and had fallen ill due to all the dust and pollution due to the construction of hydel power plants. I am allergic to dust. You can do it but u need to aclimatise as well due to height and the road from Rampur to Kalpa was awful, broken. So U cant drive very fast.

    • Nandan Jha says:

      Anando makes good points. Bad roads etc are big pain but probably manageable. You should find out about the Kaza-Manali connection opening time. It all depends on weather conditions. After Oct it is closed and then reopens in June. During my time, it opened in first week of June so you might be cutting too close.

  • shekhar says:

    hi guys,

    I have been back from kaza on the 2 nd of may……we went uptill losar (57 kms ahead of kaza ) but then Kunzum was not open till then….but the good news is Kunzum is open now so u can do the kaza manali circuit .roads are not that bad except for a few patches of 37 and 43 odd kms rest all is beautifull ….roads are all open in btn shimla and kaza anywhere u go b it sangla,kalpa,geu anywhere….and believe me it was beautiful at this time of the year as we being almost the first tourist of the season…

  • shekhar says:

    hi jaishree,

    jus a suggestion since u want to go to chitkul stay at Rupin river view Mr. Naresh Jistu(09418092894/09816686789) is the owner one guy u would surely love to meet in ur trip …the hotel has a excellent location the property is a medicore but the linens and bathrooms r pitch clean with a option of variety of food and some beautifull scenery to watch for hours togethere.my strong suggestion dont go to banjara camp sangla all though the property is good but the manager PANDEY is a lousy fillthy guy with attitudes and no sense of hospitality which i ‘m sure would leave a blot on ur holiday experience and its way 2 pricey then rupin river view ….its worth every penny

  • Madhu says:

    Hi guys

    It was indeed a pleasure reading the article and subsequent queries and replies above

    I am planning to undertake a trip Delhi-Shimla(1 Night) – Sarahan( 1 Night) – Sangla (3 Nights) – Kalpa (2 Nights) – Kaza (3 Nights) – Manali (3 Nights) – Shimla (1 Night) – Delhi. The trip is scheduled for 2nd week of June 2012. We are Four adults (incl. 2 sr. ctzn) and two kids (below 10 yrs). Kindly advise, can this trip be done in Hyundai Verna(new model) or Hyundai Getz. How is the road condition. As a precaution I have not booked my hotel in Manali, as unable to finalise the connectivity from Kaza to Manali.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Thanks Madhu and Best Wishes.

    It can be done in any of the cars but please pick the one which has a better ground clearance. I would assume that Getz would score here, but please check.

    A couple of suggestions on the itinerary.
    1. You can plan to stay for two days at Sarahan or Narkanda instead of staying at Shimla for a day.
    2. Between Sangla and Kalpa, a total of 4 days are good.
    3. Also, unless you have things to do at Simla, you can skip Simla on the way back. If you start early from Manali, you can do the home stretch in one go or else stay over at Mandi or Chandigarh.Simla is not on the way.

    All the best.

    • Madhu says:

      Thanks Nandan for the inputs. Is of great help.

      In the meanwhile, even I thought of taking Getz. Your comment has given me some confidence. My main concern was for the Kalpa- Kaza-Manali stretch. Any update on the road opening status from Kaza to Manali.

  • Anando says:

    Yes the road from shimla is always open except during land slides, however some stretches near the multiple dams are really bad…apart from that its a breeze. I am talking upto Kalpa , I dont know beyond that. Chitkul roads were fine too…narrow but fine.

  • Rahul Bhatia says:

    Hi Nandan,

    I am thinking of driving from Delhi to Kaza in September 2012.

    We are two friends and we will be driving an Alto K10, we have 7-8 days with us.

    Kindly suggest the itenary and vehicle recommendation.

    Regards,
    Rahul

  • Nandan Jha says:

    @ Rahul – Alto would do good for the entire route. It is an excellent vehicle. Light, agile, good enough ground clearance, small and reliable like all Maruti cars so we are good here.

    About the itinerary , if both of you are driving then try following
    1. Delhi – Narkanda/Thanedar
    2. Narkanda/Thanedar – Sangla
    3. Sangla – Chitkul – Sangla
    4. Sangla – Kaza
    5. Kaza (Ki etc)
    6. Kaza – Manali (Check road conditions. This is the only stretch where Alto may run into rough weather)
    7. Manali
    8. Manali – Delhi

    If Kaza-Manali doesn’t work, then you are back through same road but can stay at different places (Kalpa, Fagu)

  • Sumit says:

    Hey Nandan, We have Bike Trip scheduled in the Last week of July, We are starting from Ambala and are headed to Leh Via Shimla-Kaza-Keylong Route, We are stopping over at Shimla the First night and are not clear about where to make the next stop. Should it be Kalpa or any other place midway between Shimla-Kaza.

    Please guide us on this?? Also any place of accomdation in Shimla-Kalpa-Kaza?? We are looking more budget-basic accomdation.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    @ Sumit – Sangla would be a good stop. Though technically it is not on the route but if you start early from Shimla you can reach Sangla before dark. If you have time, then try to stay for an additional day at Sangla so that you can do a ride to Chitkul. Sangla/Chitkul should have good budget options, for sure.

    Beyond Sangla, you can look at halting at ‘Ka Monastery’. They would be happy to extend a place to you. Since you are all on bikes, I would also recommend reading the below series by Aditya and if required, take his advice as well.

    http://www.ghumakkar.com/2011/11/12/to-the-last-the-highest-village-in-the-baspa-valley-chitkul/

    Good luck and best wishes.

  • Birinder says:

    Hi Planning to make a trip to kaza from chandigarh.We are staying 3 nights at kinner camps sangla.Kindly tell us which dhaba is the best to have lunch on the way to nako .we are staying one night at kinner camps Nako. and Also suggest which place is better for stay as we want very neat and clean rooms as well as bathroom as we going with family and kids. kindly suggest the hotel is the best for stay Snow lion , Spiti Sarai , Hotel Sakya Abode .
    Thanks
    Birinder

  • Nandan says:

    @ Birinder – Good elaborate eating places are very very hard to find. We had a hard time there. I would suggest you carry food from your Sangla camp itself. For the stay at Kaza, I stayed at ‘Banjara Camps’. It is a decent clean place though it was a bit expensive. Wishing you well.

  • Neena says:

    Hi Nandan,
    It was great to read your blog. It was very informative.
    Me and my husband are planning a 10 day trip to Himachal in November.
    Since it is the winter season we understand that a lot of places will be out of bounds. Can you suggest some good road trip we can take at that time of the year?
    We have a Swift and our own camping gear and would like to intersperse one or two days of camping with a day at some guest house etc.
    Thanks
    Neena

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Hi Neena – Thanks for liking it. Do read and comment on other stories as you find time.

    November would be cold for Himachal so an un-assisted camping would be a little difficult. You can look at following circuits

    1. Manali – Kasol – Manikaran Belt (Kasol has some beautiful walks)
    2. Chail – Kasauli – Barog – Shogi – Shimla – Kurfi (The fun places)
    3. Mcleod – Palampur – Barot (Quiet, Spiritual run, Also hip)

    Spiti would be too cold. Anything beyond Sarahan would be too cold.

    I would recommend that you read Sahil Sethi’s stories and write a comment. He has done a lot of road trips to Himachal and can possibly suggest better.
    http://www.ghumakkar.com/author/sahilthegoodguy

  • Suvayan says:

    I want to visit Kaza and Spiti Vally. But, I want to visit by local transport, mainly local bus etc. So, please tell me the situation of local bus service in Himachal Pradesh…

    • Anando says:

      I did that, made it till Kalpa and fell sick due to all the dust and diesel fumes. Not a good idea. Shimla gets like 1 deluxe bus to Kaza in 2 days and they are normally full as they come from Chandigarh. IMO travel by personal car.

  • Rakesh Gandhi says:

    Wonderful information provided by Mr Nandan Jha,One can easily access and imagine…..about visit ,I will try to visit in next summer,Thanks a lot.But i feel if Nandan had also written about boarding and lodging ….would have more beneficial.Thanks a lot Nandan.

  • SS says:

    Hi Nandan
    I am planning a self driven road trip from Vadodara to this region.Vadodara-delhi-shimla-narkanda-sarahan-sangla-chitkul-kalpa-nako-tabo-dhankar-kaza-manali-delhi-vadodara.
    Please suggest how many days are enough for doing this trip at a leisure pace.What are the places enroute not to be missed & accomodation etc.Please suggest itinerary based on your experience.
    thanks

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Dear SS – For your Delhi leg, following log might be useful.
    http://www.ghumakkar.com/2007/10/28/delhi-vadodara-delhi-road-trip-part-1/

    It would need a thorough planning but roughly you should plan for 3 weeks for a leisure trip. There are a ton of places and based on the time you have, you can pick the bigger ones which you have mentioned. I am sure you know that Kaza-Manali is only open from June-Sep/Oct, depending on weather. Once you firm up the total number of days, season, mode of transport and personal-preferences then it would be easier to suggest further.

  • Pawan Satyawali says:

    Hi Nandan,
    We are a family of 4 with 2 kids of 3 years and 8 year aged girls. We are planning for Delhi – Shimla – Kaza – Kaylong – Manali – Delhi trip. We are planning from 1 June – 15 June. Night halts at Narkonda, Sangla, Nako, Kaza, Losar, Kaylong, Solang, Manikaran, Panchkula.
    We have our own Xylo which I will be driving. Wanted to check on few things with your experiance
    Do we book hotels at all placed or finding them on way would be good idea.
    Where all can we get diesel or would you recommend to take reserve with us.
    With kids what other precautions would you recommend.

    Thanks

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Hi Pawan,

    Thanks for writing. Though you have not asked but let me first start with the places you have chosen to stay. For a 15 day trip, stopping at 9 places might mean a lot of check-in/check-out and with kids you may be losing a lot of time. So unless you have a reason to stay at all the above places, please re-evaluate.

    Without any context my suggestion would be
    1. Narkanda, Sangla, Nako, Kaza, Keylong, Manikaran/Kasol, Rewalsar Lake (Near Mandi). You can have a elaborate lunch at Losar so as to cover it well, Same with Solang and infact same with Panchkula.

    2. Yes, please book hotels in advance at least for Narkanda, Sangla, Nako and Kaza. You are going up and most of these stretches are long drives. Keylong is a big town and Manikaran/Kasol, Rewalsar are either big towns and close to big towns so it would be OK to not book in advance.

    3 You need to worry about Diesel between Sangla and Solang. Go full from Sangla, then again fill it at Kaza (there is a government petrol pump and it is closed in the evenings) and then at Keylong. In case you do run out of it, then you can find ways to get gallons. No need to carry a gallon, it is not safe and you are still very much around big district towns. You would be OK.

    4. After Sangla, watch out for signs of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). Kids would do fine. Keep your heads covered, esp in windy cases, drink lots of water/fluid, dont rush things up and enjoy your time.

    Wishes.

    • Pawan Satyawali says:

      Nandan,
      Thanks a lot for a detailed reply.
      Idea of stopping 9 places is to ensure we utilize 15 days and explore most of the area. I am not thinking of “covering” the distance.
      I wanted to stay at Chitkul but Sangla can also be good option.. Losar we kept to see if we can visit Chandratal. If the weather is not good or still there is lot of snow (in June) we will not go that way rather have lunch as you suggest and try to reach Keylong.
      We wanted to stay as Manali but heard it will be more crowded so thinking of Solang.
      Is there any other location than Orkut where you kept your photos.. wanted to see…

      • Nandan Jha says:

        Pawan,

        Chitkul and Sangla are close-by, so staying at Sangla would be better. Since you are traveling with Kids and it can get a bit difficult with many new hotels, I suggested to limit that. Most of the hotels, as you go up would be very humble and functional.

        Chandratal would be difficult. If you are serious then try to find out at Kaza and hopefully take a local car on rent, for the last leg. After visiting Chandratal, you can proceed further and the rented jeep can return back to Kaza. Manali is definitely crowded but you (and kids) might like the noise after quieter stays at Sangla/Kaza/Keylong. I have not put a lot of photos here or elsewhere. But there are other logs which you can check.

        All the best – Nandan

  • dr jyoti bunglowala says:

    sir,we are family of four ,husband ,wife,son 21yrs and daughter 12yrs planning to go to spiti valley in june.we will satrt from indore MP.our next stop will be at delhi then shimla probably or can we reach up to thanedhar..we will drive ourselves in toyota fortuner.
    last year we covered whole leh laddakh and kashmir.went via pahalgam kargil and came back via manali….that time we even went to pso mo ri ri lake also..i think the road condition of spiti area is almost like that..so this time want to go Kaza via shimla and back from same route..can you suggest the ideal stoppage? safety precautions and the villages having petrol pump are mandatory to know.
    my rough plan is for night halt is delhi-thanedhar -sangla-kalpa-kaza-kaza-sangla-shimla-delhi-indore
    -please guide us about the places ..i heard a lot about kibber and the views of chau chau kang peak..
    regards
    jyoti

    • SS says:

      Hi Jyoti
      Read your Leh Travelogue.Its excellent.
      Regarding your query, I did this circuit in September last year in Dzire. Dr. Afzal knows the link “spiti Dzire Fullfilled”
      You can do like this-
      Day 1 Indore – Behror (Stay at RTDC Motel, Its 800 KM from Indore)
      Day 2 Behror – Thanedhar/kufri
      Day 3 Thanedhar – Narkanda – Sarahan
      Day 4 Sarahan – Sangla – Chhitkul
      Day 5 Chhitkul – Kalpa
      Day 6 Kalpa – Nako – Tabo (Stay at Tabo, its beautiful)
      Day 7 Tabo – Dhankhar – Lidang – Koumik – Hikkam – Langza – Kaza
      Day 8 Kaza – Ki – Kibber – Chandratal
      Day 9 Chandratal – Return Journey

      You will find petrol pumps at Rampur,Reckong Peo (Near Kalpa) & Kaza
      Roads are gud except Losar – Gramphu stretch which is the worst I have ever driven.

      • jyoti bunglowala says:

        hi,
        thanx a lot for your valuable suggestion.will definitely work on this line.
        Dr Afzal is my brother in law….we took a separate trip in last june.he guided us very well.
        is it possible to go sangla instead sarahan or chitkul? may be thanedhar to sangla,sangla to kalpa then tabo and two days in kaza…want to return after ki and kibber,as chandrtal seems more at the side of manali highway and we want to return via shimla again.lot of traffic jam at rohtang plus the road from keylong onwords we travelled last year..

        • SS says:

          Sangla is enroute Chhitkul. I would suggest to stay at Rackcham or Chhitkul instead of Sangla as these are more quiet & scenic. Rackcham has “Rupin River View ” Hotel at the banks of river. Chhitkul also has some hotels. We stayed at Panchali Resorts which is decent hotel at the end of the village thus providing very gud views.

          Returning via Manali will save you one day plus you can visit Chandratal which is awesome lake.
          This way you will be able to complete the loop & save time.

          As per latest information only one way traffic will be allowed through Rohtang Pass (From Manali side upto noon & from Kaza/leh side to Manali after noon). This will help reduce the traffic mess at Rohtang.

    • Nandan Jha says:

      Thank you Doc for reading and commenting here. SS has suggested a very good plan. Just a few more suggestions.

      1. If you do not have as many days then you can skip Kalpa and Sarahan, and spend more time at Sangla (Chitkul is a easy 90 minutes drive away, you can do a lunch outing and also spend more time in Sangla).

      2. For “Chandratal”, find out current situation from Kaza. In any case, return via Kaza-Manali-Mandi-Chd route, it is faster. Rohtang pass would be pain (bad roads, traffic jam etc). Prepare well for severe cold.

      3. Roads are pretty bad after Rampur. Jaypee is making some big powerplants and hence roads are totally gone. RecongPo – Karchham is affected.

      I would also recommend you to read and get more advice from Anupam who did this circuit recently and posted a very detailed account of it.
      http://www.ghumakkar.com/2013/03/16/the-great-himachal-circuit-part-2-shimla-to-sangla-via-sarahan/

      Good luck and best wishes.

      • jyoti bunglowala says:

        hi Nandan,
        thanx for the prompt reply!!!yes SS has suggested good plan..
        let me tell you we have 12 days …so sangla 2 days stay with drive to chitkul is good..we must take the rest for further trip…
        not more interested in chandratal but as you suggested to return via Manali then will give second thought to it…do you really feel it is faster via manali? last year we had 5 hrs traffic jam in rohtang pass.
        cold would be no problem but is there also the problem of altitude sickness?
        i dont want to book the hotels prehand,though banjara grp hotel seems good but is it easy to get accomodation in june on arrival?
        will surely go through Aupam’s write up and make a better plan..
        bye for now
        regards

        • Nandan Jha says:

          Kaza-Manali is one full day. Since you would be reaching Rohtang only in afternoon, even after a bad jam you should be in your hotel comfortably for a warm and easy dinner. Also Kaza-Manali drive is one of the very special drives. In June, it would be all snow. I am sure Fortuner would do the stretch very well.

          http://www.ghumakkar.com/2009/08/27/kaza-to-manali-a-road-less-travelled/

          Manali-Delhi is one day drive. Exceptional roads. If you choose to come back via the same route then you can do Kaza-Tabo (stay for the night)-Sarahan (long drive)-Delhi.

          AMS can happen. Especially when you go to Ki, Kibber etc. Keep your head covered, drinks enough water and just do not rush and you all would be fine. You would know better. :-)

          • jyoti bunglowala says:

            hi Nandan and SS,
            planning the trip like..
            day 1 indore to behror
            day 2 behror to Narkanda
            day 3 narkanda to sangla ..via sarahan????)
            day 4 sangla …will see chitkul and nearby places
            day 5 kalpa
            day 6 kalpa to Tabo ….nako and khab for visit
            day 7 tabo…cover dhanker
            day 8 kaza..key kibber
            day 9 kaza to manali..via kunzum pass and chandrtal??
            day 10.manali to delhi
            what about Pin valley?
            now one thing to ask..is it possible to go narkanda to sangla via sarahan ? is sarahan worth for lunch halt or straight away should go Narkanda to Sangla?
            second is really two days needed in Tabo or we can cover it in one day?
            though the real traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving ,i booked HPTC hotels and Banjara grp hotels.

  • Suman DG says:

    This blog was one of the most informative one I found- thanks a lot for all the helpful information.Asking about Just one bit I did not find.

    I am planning a tour of Shimla-Kinnaur-Kaza-manali-Shimla from 20th October so i will be passing the kaza-Manali route in around 25-26th.Should I plan for it or plan till Kaza assuming the route will be closed? will it be worth planning for the full circuit and having a plan B(till kaza)

    I will have my wife who has never been to mountains-We will have around 10 days to cover this- though she is just 28 but will it be physically challenging?

    thanks in advance

  • Nandan Jha says:

    My guess is that Kaza-Manali would get closed by oct end. Even without Kaza-Manali, the whole stretch is 100% worthy for a travel, except that it would be biting cold post Sangla. If you are fine with that then you are good. It would be an off season so you may not see many (actually any) tourists at most of the places beyond Shimla (which always attracts travellers, all year) and it can get a little lonely (depressing) since because of extreme cold your movements would be restricted during early morning, evening etc. Just take extra care of AMS (drink lots of fluids, stay warm, cover your head from wind, do things easily, no rush) and you would be fine. Wishes.

  • Suman DG says:

    Thanks for the inputs- very helpful and much appreciated!!

    I kinda get a feeling that I will make the tour nice and comfortable till Sangla and come back- is it worth making it till Kaza if we are not completing the circuit?

    I would rather make it a 6 day-5 night plan with 1 night in sarahan-1 in Kalpa-1 chitkul-2 sangla.Please suggest any ammendments,

    Another point- will we get to experience snow anywhere- thats something is in our wishlist very much

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