kinnaur in mar 2010 (kalpa/sangla/chitkul) – I

Kalpa/Sangla/Chitkul (Mar 2010)

We managed a full week break (09 days in effect, Saturday to next Sunday) thanks to the rare confluence of three variables, Mine & Sharmi’s  leave and Deboshmita’s school holidays. Having covered Kumaon (Nainital/Almora) in the last trip (Dec 09), we did not want to repeat Uttaranchal. In Himanchal, since the usual destinations were already covered, we scouted for some less travelled ones.

And there it was – Kalpa, Sangla and Chitkul.

For the uninitiated, they are part of Kinnaur district of HP. Kinnaur has been glamorised by travellers across the ages for its beauty; scenic as well as human. The place supposedly finds mention in our traditional scriptures (purans / upnishads) also.

Planned Itinerary

New Delhi – Chandigarh-Shimla- Narkanda –Rekong Peo-Kalpa-Sangla-Chitkul & back via Shimla.

Drive/ Route (New Delhi to Kalpa)

Day 1 – New Delhi to Narkanda (approx 420 Kms)

After much chaos, confusion and confabulation (the scene repeats unwaveringly, every time) we managed to start at 8.00 am from New Delhi on Saturday (Day 1). Drive to Chandigarh on the silky NH-1 is always a source of joy. Exit from Delhi was hassle free, without much hindrance. Zirakpur (at about 230 kms from NDelhi), short of Chandigarh, is the point from where you take a right turn (from under a flyover), to head towards Shimla (else, you would enter into Chandigarh). We were at this point by 1.00 pm. A much vaunted point on the route is the tourist complex in Karnal, midway between Delhi and Chandigarh. I personally have never visited the place, so cann’t really comment.

Roadside landscape after Ambala was dotted with orange/juice stalls (even in March); a feature that typifies Punjab (and bordering areas of Haryana).

The stretch from Zirakpur to Kalka, which was witness to construction activities in the past, appears to have improved. A constant, steady drive on this road is now possible till Kalka.

Kalka is a chronic bottleneck on the way to Shimla. While doing time calculations, it may be prudent to keep aside 1-1.30 hours for traversing the narrow road across Kalka. Good part, however, is that you can really enjoy the earthly flavour of Punjab/Haryana while creeping at a speed of about one millionth kmph, the shops and crowd passing by your elbow, unmindful, busy in the chores.

Passing through Kalka

Kalka transforms into Parwanoo (HP side of the state boundary) almost suddenly. It also marks an abrupt change in terrain.

Drive up to Shimla (2100 mtrs ASL) was again effortless, thanks to the wide, well paved roads. One can make a quick tea stopover at Solan viewpoint, situated before Solan. Before entering Shimla, I took the bye-pass to skirt the tunnel/congested lift area of Shimla. On the bypass, after travelling 2-3 kms, upon enquiry about directions, locals warned me against taking the bypass. It supposedly entails longer road of lesser quality. Heeding to their wisdom, I turned left into Shimla and hit the circular road near Secretariat, at around 03.30pm. Shimla has been covered later, during the return phase.

Thereafter, through Sanjauli, we headed out of Shimla towards Kufri/Fago/Narkanda, on NH 22.  While crossing Kufri, to our surprise, we located ice chunks along roadside.

The scene periodically continued till Narkanda. Road from Shimla to Narkanda is wide and well paved, perhaps just a shade less in quality than that upto Shimla.

We were in Narkanda at around 05.00 pm; our halt for the day. It is a smallish hill station centred on NH 22. Hotel Mahamaya, right on the bus stand, did not look very inviting, so we decided to stay in HPTDC Hotel Hatu, a 02 minutes uphill drive just above the bus stand. Hatu commands grand view and offers ample parking, along with facilities viz, operational restaurant, clean rooms, heater/geyser etc. Night temperatures in Narkanda hovered to 3-5 Deg Cel. The Rs 1700/- room cost around Rs 1500/- after discount, and while leaving the next day morning before breakfast, my purse was lighter by approx Rs 2000/-, the amount being inclusive of dinner in the restaurant.

Day 2 – Narkanda to Kalpa (approx 190 kms)

Left Narkanda at 9.30 AM. Main station ahead is Rampur, where we tanked up the car, since we were not sure of petrol pump status ahead. Had very tasty paraths/rajma breakfast-cum-lunch in Jeori, about 100 kms beyond Narkanda, at around 1.00 pm. Hereafter, the roads turn narrower and lower in tar quality. We were upbeat about impending entry into Kinnaur. Places named Wantu, etc en-route aided in conjuring a Tibetan flavour.

At around 2.00 pm we entered Kinnaur, through the PWD variety cement arch reading ‘Welcome to Kinnaur’. The roads continue to deteriorate in terms of crust, but are generally wide enough to allow two vehicles cross each other comfortably. The scenic beauty is bewitching. You have Satluj flowing past and simultaneously steep rocky mounts rising all around. On this stretch, one gets the first glimpse of Kinner Kailsh, snow clad and becalming. The stretch also merits mention because you come across a typical barren rocky landscape for a while. The sheer bald Himalayan rocks swooping from all around and Satluj flowing down there somewhere, creates an impressionable effect. Sharmi was going wild with the camera.


After this comes the horrendous stretch. Thanks to a series of hydro-electrical projects/ dams being created on the Satluj, the road turns into admixture of dirt track, pebbled/potholed/slushy pathway with dust and grime around and heart-rending jolts from down under.

The primary site is Karcham, a point from where a diversion takes you to Sangla valley. We kept moving ahead on NH22, towards Kalpa/ Rekong Peo. The tough road scene continued well after Karcham, till perhaps Rekong Peo. Rekong Peo (locally known as Peo), is the district headquarters of Kinnaur. From here, a road branches out from NH22 to Kalpa (the NH leads further ahead towards Pooh and beyond into Lahaul/Spiti).

Jai Kinnar Kailash –

Peo is a nice, magnificent hilly place with reasonable activity. The snow-capped peaks were visible all around. Road from Peo to Kalpa (a 7 km stretch) is well paved, offering an enjoyable 30-40 min drive. We were in Kalpa by 5.00 pm.

Thats Kalpa

More of Kalpa

Looking forward to post events in and after Kalpa in next post.


  • Abhishek Bhardwaj says:

    Pictures taken looks great.
    Always like the distance showing signboards.
    Waiting for the next post.

  • rahul says:

    Good one aurojit..I thorougly enjoyed reading this I have never gone towards rekong peo..though I visited khara patthar couple of weeks back..Now you have added one more destination to my long list…:-)

  • nandanjha says:

    Welcome aboard Aurojit.

    I was there on this road last June and I would want to do it again. Last time we rushed through some of the places, like Peo/Nako/etc. It was first time and we were more worried on reaching our destination :-) so gave a pass.

    Next time, probably with more time (and patience) at hand. I did Delhi-Sangla-Kaza-Manali-Delhi stretch.

  • upendra says:

    Nice description of the trip and of course, the route. It will help me to plan for our trip to the area in the coming season. Enjoyed reading it. I await the next part.


  • Adi says:

    Good one….I liked the photographs …especially the Kinnar-Kailash one …its beautifully taken…. and wonderfull to see the unexplored geographies of our own country…..
    Keep posting dear…

  • Ram Dhall says:

    The mention of Shimla, Rampur Bushahar, Rohru, Recong Peo and Sangla took me down the memory lane.

    Around 20 years back, a gentelman from Kinnaur became my next door neighbour for a couple of years. He was a bachelor then and a good talker. He shared with me some of the brilliant pictures of the region and also told me about the difficulties in travelling in this hilly terrain. His village was located on the other side of a river and each day while going and coming back from the school, he had to manually pull the cable trolley from one end to another. Considering the long strech, this was a highly labour intensive and time consuming excercise for him. He also shared with me a fact about which you too have mentioned – Kinnaur figured in our traditional scriptures too. It is believed that the Pandavas spent sometime out of their ‘agyatavas” in this region. Draupadi, as we all know, was married to all the five pandava brothers. My friend told me a strange fact that the same practice of poly-andre still persisted in Kinnaur. Even in their own family all the brothers were married to one lady. Since my friend was the youngest in the family and brought up by this lady as a child, she insisted that he should find a suitable match for himself. The girl whom he married hailed from Sangla valley and hence I was reminded of them.

    A close friend’s wedding took place at Rampur Bushahar and we visited the place subsequently too.

    Rohru and Recong Peo have their own stories, about which I will write on another ocassion.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences through this brilliant piece of descripption.

    Look forward to the remaining part of the story.

  • aurojit says:

    Thanks to Mr Dhall for the generous words. Yes, the practise still exists. Another interesting aspect is the inheritence issue. Here the girl inherits the property from parents (mother). Will talk about it in the subsequent piece.

  • GSK says:

    Nice post and good writeup… We were there in Sangla last year for a 3 day and visited Kalpa also.

    Well Zirakhpur to Panchkula is still not smooth and we have take short cut from Dera Bassi to Panchkula which saves almost 30-45 min and our recent trip to Kusauli – Chail.

    Another Short cut I would recommend if people want to go beyond Shimla. It is Solan-Chail-Kufri….Good road & very beautiful surroundings.

    Also one should not miss “Barog” station (Named after engineer who created wrong tunnel and fined by British Govt. and later on suicide) just after Dharampur which have longest tunnel on the Shimla – Kalka railway.

  • joyclubsunil says:

    Very good narration. very good pictures. well done

  • aurojit says:

    Thanks GSK, joyclubsunil for the comments.
    Solan-Chail-Kufri – isn’t it a wee bit longer? Barog certainly is a place worth a dekko.
    Thanks again.

  • Sahil says:

    very nyc post…pics are also very good…Is the route safe to go with family by our own car ??

  • aurojit says:

    Thanks Sahil,
    please refer my reply to your comments in Sangla/Kalpa Part II. Safety, in terms of security – never a problems on hills, I would say. Safety, in terms of route/road conditions – I dont see much problems if you are not carried away by ‘racist’s spirit’, especially on hilly terrain. Plan the trip with ample time in hands, so that you don’t have to rush. If delayed, it is better to stay put for the night in unplanned destination rather than trying to reach the planned one in dead of nights.

  • Vipin says:

    Those who are frequent travellers to hill stations of Uttranchal and Himachal can rate the best five places to see from these two states

  • Yogesh says:

    Nh 22 is very cautionfull road

  • This a really great writeup by the author hope to come back more really soon.

  • amit chahal says:

    I like this place very much,As a himachal I have proud on our state very much,Kinnaur is a beautiful place for travelling..snow covered peaks, blue snow water,cool wind,fresh air & sun shine….as per my own thinking every person shuld have to go to these places,If u find heaven you will get it here…..

  • Biswajit Ganguly says:

    Dear Auro,
    Wonderful description, beautiful snaps!!!! But the best part that I loved is your real love for travelling, and encouraging others too. I must admit the mild description you have made here about NH 22 specially from Bhavanagar to Pohari, makes every traveller sit back and start packing for the journey, if you love adventurous driving and like to test your skills then should visit this portion of the journey to Kalpa. I have been to this stretch almost four times, although last visit (june 2011) saw huge imrpovements hence recommends every nature lover to go for this route alongwith Sarahan part which is the last village of Shimle district, only 17 kms from Jeori, a sure shot place cannot efford to miss. Just going for the next part……

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Biswajit,

    Once again thanks for going through and liking the post. Your info that Powari stretch has improved is a great news and I am already enticed.


  • abhinav says:

    Hi Auro,
    Nice post thanx a lot man…and there is one big relief from the jam in pinjore-kala….after taking right from zirakpur towards nh 22, and after covering few kms one donn’t have to take route of pinjore, consturction of higway is done and it takes to you direct in the mountains by passing pinjore kalka parwanoo near timber trail.


  • Pankaj says:

    HI All,

    I am Pankaj Verma, I have reviewed the comments you guys has shared and they are very useful. I am Planning a tour to Kinnaur district with my friends.
    Our trip will be starting on 15th October around 1600hrs and anyhow we have to comeback by afternoon of 19th October. We have hired a Tempo Traveller for this trip. I really appreciate if you guys can help me in planning my travel itinerary along with must visit places.
    this trip means a lot to me


  • abhinav says:

    Dude you are really short on days

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