The Great Himachal Circuit – Part 2 : Shimla to Sangla via Sarahan

We reached Shimla from Delhi, the first day and had a good time there. Now, we were ready to move on to our dream circuit.

Day 2: Narkanda, Sarahan and Sarahan Local
It was a nice early morning in Shimla the next day, raining slightly. We got up on time and were ready by around 8AM to get into our cab. The cab was also there in time. We met the cab driver Lekhram, and over the next 6 days, we found that we have a new friend in our life. Lekhram was our guide, mentor and everything over the next few days. His services, not being just only a cab driver, were beyond our imagination.
Onboard our next destination was Narkanda with an on way view and finally reaching Sarahan. As we started for Narkanda, it was the drive on the other side of Shimla and the scenic beauty was even better. The route to Narkanda is towards Tara Devi Temple. A slight diversion from Taradevi and the route diverts to Narkanda. Another road from Narkanda diverts towards Thanedar which is at a slight height. It was off course not our destination, but one can still visit Thanedar also, because tourists keep Thanedar as their visiting spot too.

Amazing Kinnaur District

Amazing Kinnaur District


Amazing route through the mountains

Amazing route through the mountains

Green Himachal is the right word to describe Himachal as we see greenery throughout the route. Occasional places one sees Yaks on the way. One can have nice beautiful pictures standing by the side of the Yaks.

Yaks onway to Narkanda

Yaks onway to Narkanda

We went on to have a nice drive and with occasional tea breaks in between, we reached Narkanda by around 12 PM. The Kinnaur valley has a lovely green view all around. We again had a cup of tea. Our driver took us to a nice little place for lunch. After lunch, we went for a walk around Narkanda. Around 1:30 PM we left Narkanda and on our way to Sarahan.

Panaromic Clouded Himalayan Peaks

Panaromic Clouded Himalayan Peaks

Route we covered to Sarahan from Narkanda

Route we covered to Sarahan from Narkanda

Sarahan was the first of our places to visit which is at some height (around 7500 ft). A small diversion needs to be taken from Jeori for reaching Sarahan. As we moved towards Sarahan, we drove up the hills through the hilly roads. The roads are quite good, but not in the best of conditions for Sarahan. It took around 3 hours for us to reach Sarahan. Around 4 PM we were there in Sarahan. It has been a lovely drive since morning till now to the place.
Our driver only took us to a hotel (they have all sorts of connections in every place, so it’s really easy). And to our surprise there were lot of Bengali hotels there and our driver also took us to a nice Bengali hotel. So it was really good for us too. The hotel was nice, the room was nice and the best part was it was in the right location to visit the various places in Sarahan.

In Sarahan, there are 3 main destinations to visit:
a) Rajbari
b) Bird Sanctuary and
c) Bhimakali Temple at Sarahan

The bird sanctuary was closed and is at a height and requires trekking up. We did not cover that. After an hour of rest, we started to walk around Sarahan and visited the Rajbari and few other beautiful houses on way. Sarahan is a beautiful village at such a height. We were simply amazed to see the greenery, cleanliness and beauty of the place.

Cloudy Mountains over Sarahan

Cloudy Mountains over Sarahan

Narkanda

Narkanda

A very important thing about Himachal, is that people are very cooperative and they are very happy with what they are and have. I am writing this because I tour as well as I interact with people over various places, trying to find the differences in the cultures, way of living etc. This is what travelling is all about. I found Himachal people in the remote of the areas to be very well educated (better than what we are in cities) and well behaved. They are clean by heart and they educate their child to be as clean as them.

Sarahan Raibari Views

Sarahan Raibari Views

Sarahan views

Sarahan views

Soon it was getting dark and we entered the temple which normally opens up after 7PM. Not everywhere inside the temple are cameras and accessories allowed, but there are lockers where they can be kept. So we put our accessories in the lockers and entered the temple. The Bhimakali Temple at Sarahan is quite big and unique in its own way and own beauty. It looks more like a monastery rather than a temple.

Sarahan Temple - View from a distance

Sarahan Temple – View from a distance

We were almost done by 7:30 PM and we walked our way back through the round round to the hotel. In the morning the Sarahan Temple has a lovely view too both from the hotel as well from near the temple.

Sarahan Temple View

Sarahan Temple View

Sarahan Temple in the morning

Sarahan Temple in the morning

Very near to the temple is the Government owned Hotel Srikhand. And it is a beauty in its own. Lovely views to take photographs and one should not miss visiting it, especially in the morning. There are a lot of apple trees around. Small and beautiful.

Sweet apples of Himachal

Sweet apples of Himachal

We were back to the hotel by 8:00 PM and we ordered tea for the evening. We completed our dinner at around 9:30PM and then went for sound sleep.

Day 3: Narkanda, Sarahan and Sarahan Local and then on to Sangla, Chitkul and Kalpa

It was day 3 and we went up in the morning early to have a view of early morning Sarahan. Sarahan has wonderful morning view. A walk down the roads of Sarahan is simply awesome and the view of the valley from the Srikhand hotel is a photographer’s paradise. Me and my parents had a lovely walk around the street surrounding the temple. The flowers glooming in the temple garden is simply awesome. I did not waste my time taking few quick pics of the lovely flowers in the garden.

Came back to the hotel and had a lovely breakfast. The hotel staff also assisted us in where we can stay in our next destinations and what should be our plan. We cleared up all the bills and started for the day around 9:30 AM. Our destinations to cover for the day were specially Chitkul and back for Kalpa. The route normally is go to Chitkul, visit the small village, come back to Karcham Dam and then take the main road to Kalpa (via Recong Peo).

It takes around 2 hours to reach Karcham from Sarahan. Throughout the route to Karcham, one can see the heavy constructions and maintenance of Dams by Jaypee constructions. The view of Sutlej throughout the entire stretch is awesome.The travel with occasional tea breaks, snacks break is a treat in itself. We reached Karcham around 11:30 AM. From Karcham to Chitkul, BASPA river accompanies us. This river meets up Satluj in Karcham. While at Karcham, the Dam maintained by Jaypee is beautiful, and although photography is strictly prohibited, you can take photographs while on drive. And we did the same thing.

Quick view of the Karcham Dam - Jaypee Project

Quick view of the Karcham Dam – Jaypee Project

Then on, throughout from Karcham to Sangla, the Road of Death starts. Typical narrow roads, through which vehicles drives on both ways. While on three sides one sees heaven, on one side, the BASPA river flowing around 2000 ft below, with full sound and flow, makes it the road of death.

Imagine the Curve and the road type

Imagine the Curve and the road type

Road to Chitkul - Dangerous and full of adventure

Road to Chitkul – Dangerous and full of adventure

Droplets on windscreen - way to Kalpa

Droplets on windscreen – way to Kalpa

The road conditions are pathetic but fun to move. Type roads between turned U-shaped mountain ranges, makes the travel even more dangerous. There is a beautiful temple enroute, and location of the temple at such a height on the road side, makes it simply marvelous.

Temple on the way to Chitkul

Temple on the way to Chitkul

Enjoying the drive with my parents and gossiping with our driver Lekhram, throughout the drive, we crossed the lovaly valley of Sangla. Sangla Valley is no less than heaven. The greenery throughout on all the sides and across the mountains, simply proves that.

Sarahan to Chitkul

Sarahan to Chitkul

Frozen River

Frozen River

Another hour or so and we reached Rakcham, where it was time to have some lovely lunch. Rakcham was also a nice place to have, and I immediately did not miss out my time on taking some snaps.

Baspa River

Baspa River

From Hotel at Raksham

From Hotel at Raksham

While having lunch at Raksham

While having lunch at Raksham

The view of the BASPA river from Rakcham gives an entire impression of the total green valley of Sangla. Rakcham comes in Sangla region of Himachal in Kinnaur district 14 KM from Sangla. As one moves ahead from Rakcham, it’s another 10 KM to Chitkul. It took another 1 hour and we reached Chitkul by around 2 PM in the afternoon. One of the most beautiful villages on the Tibet border, visitors are not allowed after a certain point. It was raining a bit too, but it was worth taking a walk through the Chitkul village by side of the river, deep inside.

As I already mentioned, the small small villages and towns of Himachal are very well educated with the limited population. And every person is a privilege to meet. The way they talk to you, their small small gestures. We even took few photographs will local people in there.

Chitkul

Chitkul

Chitkul Village - Beautiful views

Chitkul Village – Beautiful views

After spending an hour or so there, it was time to move back and reach Kalpa before evening. As evening appears, the road from Chitkul towards Rakcham and then on to Sangla, Karcham looks more deadly. But for us, including my mother and father, it was the journey of a life time, and as a surprise to me, they were enjoying fully. In the midst of the road, in a small fall, Lekhram, washed the car and we enjoyed the cold, pure water of the fall.

Mom Dad in the waterfall

Mom Dad in the waterfall

Car Wash time

Car Wash time

With occasional tea breaks in between and in between evening snacks, took us around 2 and half hours to reach back Karcham Dam. Around 5:30 PM we were at Karcham Dam. And again we left the BASPA river and caught hold of Satluj river. From Karcham Dam, we took the route towards Recong Peo and Kalpa. The road towards Peo and Kalpa starts giving small small impressions of moving out of the Kinnaur District and entering into the Spiti District, although Spiti is still 2 days away.

From, Karcham to Recong Peo mountain ranges are occasionally green and occasionally dry with small small green patches. Our driver showed an huge landslide area, where few years back an entire army convoy was buried, and no trace was found.
Occassional landslides can stuck your drive for some time. We were stuck in such a landslide clearance for around an hour on the side of the Satluj River. These stucks in landslides are also great experiences, where you get time to go near to the River and walk along the road.

Relax while landslide clears

Relax while landslide clears

While stuck in a landslide

While stuck in a landslide

Around 6:45 PM, the landslide was cleared and we were still around 2 hours from Kalpa. It was really getting dark now, and Kalpa was at a considerable height of around 10000 ft. Road to reach Kalpa in dark was really dangerous, but then our driver Lekhram told us, in evening it’s easier to drive in the mountains, because one can see the light of vehicles coming from opposite direction from far off. But that is not possible during the day. On the way, there is a place called Powari, where one road takes you on to Khab and the other one to Recong Peo. So, we took the road to Recong Peo.

By around 8:30 PM, we reached Recong Peo. Recong Peo is a mini town and well populated. Buses ply from Recong Peo connecting to some important points in Himachal. Our driver showed us Recong Peo on way. From Peo it was another 4KM to Kalpa, almost another 45 minutes.

We were pre-decided, we were not going to visit any temples or Monastries in Kalpa, but only see the Kinnaur Kailash in the morning from Kalpa. Our driver took us to the hotel (the Kinnaur Kailash Resort) with the best view of Kinnaur Kailash in Kalpa. The resorts are very reasonable in offseason, around 500 Rs for a room. We were in the Hotel by around 9:00 PM. It was time for some tea first up and good dinner. The hotel was nice, the view from the balcony even in the evening was awesome, we could easily see the Kinnaur Kailash range. We were targeting to see the Kinnaur Kailash Shiv ling the next morning which is around 69 ft height, and is visible from the hotel.After some gossip, we went for a sound sleep, to get up early in the morning to view the Shiv Ling

35 Comments

  • Wow Man, this one is the best.
    Wish one day I may go to Chitkul or may be some day from Harsil by trekking that lies in the South East of Chitkul.
    Pl. tell if there are any hotels in Chitkul and Raksham?

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Post full of natural beauty………

    Enjoying…….

  • Amitava Chatterjee says:

    Nice and enjoying.
    Kinnaur & Kalpa Valley are undoubtedly one of the best scenic places.

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Nice description good photos. Thanks

  • Anupam says:

    Nandan, can you please edit and either remove “Yaks-onway-to-narkanda2.JPG” in the post or add pic here. Its not looking good probably.

  • Vipin says:

    Beautiful post, a visual delight of course! Thanks for sharing, Anupam ji….will take on this journey perhaps this summer….

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Okay, so now the road journey unfolds in full colour. It was quite a long drive. Thanedar is nice and quiet place to stay. On our trip, we we halted here for first night, so as to make most of Day 1. We were also driving from Delhi/NCR.

    For next three nights, we were at Sangla. I didn’t know much about Sarahan. The pics and the text really compensates for the loss and I am hoping to do some but of Sarahan sometime. Thanks.

    As for the road from Karchham, you are so right. It indeed is a character building experience. I did write a review of the larger circuit but probably that doesn’t cover this stretch.
    http://www.ghumakkar.com/2009/08/11/shimla-to-kaza-a-road-review/

    I guess you should have stayed the night at Chitkul. I know that it was a long trip and you wanted to make the most of it. May be some other time but it is 200% worth the penny. Out of the world views. We stayed at Sangla for 3 nights. (At Banjara Camps)

    And finally I am with Lekhram. It is indeed safer to drive in night for me as long as one is going steady. Having said that, we try to no drive in night, ever. All drives must end , at max by 9 PM or so.

    Yak pic has been fixed. The pic is indeed very nice.

    @ Praveen – Yes, there are a ton of hotels/room-stays. The trek is pretty hard. We hit into two foreigners who were trying to get to other side but could not. But having read you, I am sure you can. :-)

  • Anupam says:

    Places like Lahaul and Spiti or Ladakh is a different experience self-driving. I did not because my friends advised not to for the first time. But rest assured, whenever i come Leh, i will definitely self drive, since the worst of roads, i have got an idea now.

    Chitkul no doubt is amazing. And so is everywhere in Himachal. Infact the best thing of Himachal are the people over there :-).

    Regards
    Anupam Mazumdar

  • Stone says:

    Very simple yet effective and addictive narration Anupam.
    I’m enjoying every bit of this journey with you.
    And regards & hats off to your parents for agreeing to undertake such a long road-trip with you, ( actually mine are exact opposite) :-)

    Looking forward to the next post.

  • Gita AM says:

    Beautiful post about beautiful places.

    You are so right about the simple Himachali folk being the best part of Himachal. That is what makes a Himachal holiday special, especially in the rural areas.

  • rahul says:

    I want to visit Shimla & nearby in first week of june 2013 with my wife & a daughter (6years) & a son (3years).
    I planed to go for Shimla to chitkul—-> Night Stay at Solan/Chitkul—-> back shimla next day.

    can you give any contact number for good service Cab/Taxi ??????

    Also, @ comfort tents/hotel night stay at Solan/Chitkul?

    Thanxs in advance.

  • Anupam says:

    Rahul,

    What’s you email id?

  • Amrita says:

    Your SLR suits you very well!! awesome pics!! the posts just gets better!! The landslide and the army convoy incident is pretty scary though!!

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Anupam,

    Great post and extremely nostalgic for us. Rakcham is one place which endlessly draws us.

    The hotel in Rakcham, by any chance was it Rupin View Hotel ?

    Thanks for this very informative and enjoyable post.
    Auro.

  • yashasvini says:

    Hi Anupam,

    Excellent writeup. We are planning to do the same route this April.
    Reading you blog made my planning easy :)
    Can you provide me the cab driver details.

    regards,
    Yashasvini

  • Anupam Mazumdar says:

    Sure Yshasvini Mam,
    His Name is Lekhram
    His Mobile Number is: 09816384850
    You can give him my reference, he knows me very well now.

    Good To know, you liked the series.

    Regards
    Anupam Mazumdar

  • yashasvini says:

    Thank you. Will contact him shortly.

  • Amitava Chatterjee says:

    Hi Anupam,
    We are planning to cover the tribal circuit this September/october. Do you suggest driver Lekhram for the trip?
    I got the number…I will then contact him.

    Regards,
    Amitava

  • Anupam Mazumdar says:

    Yes Amitava, he is really nice

  • Vinay says:

    Hi

    How are the road conditions to Sangla/Kalpa at this time. I was planning to drive down in my Honda Brio. Given that the car has low ground clearance, I am a bit worried.

    Any ideas?
    Vinay

  • Nandan Jha says:

    The roads leading to Karchham would be bad because of dam-construction work. Brio without a lot of load should be OK. It wont get stuck anywhere but to avoid getting hit at the bottom, be very careful. A lot of times, just by having the back-seat free (request them to take a short walk while you manoeuvre the broken roads) solves it. Go for it.

  • Pratishtha says:

    Hi Anupam,

    Great writeup !!!!

    I and my husband are planning a trip to Lahual-Spiti in August end… Can I please have your mobile number or email address as we wanted to have a short discussion with you… I tried finding you on FB, but found many Anupam Mzumdars :) …

    You can also email me your details at my id: [email protected] or [email protected]

    Thanks !!
    Pratishtha

  • Ashish Sharma says:

    Thanks for compiling useful information. We went on six day Spiti Valley tour from 5th July 2014 with halts at Sarahan, Kalpa, Tabo, Kaza and Losar. Amazing trip.
    We booked a private Tavera with Shiv Singh (Shibu; contact number 0985714471) as driver. He was not just driver to us, he was our guide and friend for entire tour. Have a great control on driving. Highly recommended.

    • Ashish Sharma says:

      Sorry, missed out one digit in the phone number the correct number for Shiv Singh (Shibu) would be 09857144971

  • Mayank says:

    Hi,

    Its always amazing to see this passion and the pure love of travelling …. keep up the writing, it really helps.

    I am planning to drive from Saharan -> Manali in the last week of October with my family (parents and a kid – the weaker links :)). I searched on internet, the route seems to be

    Saharan -> Onto MDR 19 -> National highway 22 -> MDR 28 -> NH 305 -> NH21 -> Manali.

    I am not able to ascertain about the road conditions, will it be fine if I drive my car (Maruti Dezire)? I have driven from Chadigarh to Shimla -> Narkanda -> Sarahan.

    Anything else which I should keep in mind?

    Thanks,
    Mayank

  • Anupam Mazumdar says:

    Hi Mayank,

    You can surely go through the route in your car, specially in october since the ice would have already melted and the road becomes safe. The road from Kaza to Rohtang Pass can be some problematic but should not be a big deal to cross.

    The roads in Rohtang Pass are now better compared to what we witnessed. I just had a visit to Chandratal Lake last month. Are you planning to cover Chandratal? If yes, then plan to stay on in there for a night. The trek route from Batal to Chandratal is narrow for driving. I do not have an idea of the driving route from Kunzum pass to chandratal. May be that is slightly better. In any case once you reach the end of the driving point, you will find Jamaica’s tents there. So you can hire tents. Bargain it, he might initially charge more. The lake is around 20 minutes walk from the tents.
    If you plan to walk around the lake (8KM circumference) then, make sure you work on your fitness.

    In case the route from Kunzum to Chandratal is not open for driving, then the entire manual trek will be around 10 KM. But the route should be open.
    Please let me know if you need any more information.

    Regards
    Anupam Mazumdar

    • Mayank says:

      Hi Anupam,

      Thanks for the reply.

      If I understand the route correctly on the google map, I seem to pass through Rampur -> Banjar -> Aut -> Bhuntar -> Kullu. I was thinking of this route (also suggested by maps)?

      Is there another way passing through Rohtang to Manali? I wasn’t looking at the route you suggested above. I guess the one you are suggesting is via Kalpa -> Poo -> … , right? Besides October it would be cold (really cold) – Sarahan/Manali? My parents are also there I am not sure if I can afford a bumpy, trek kinds route (though I wish I could)?

      Thanks again,
      Mayank

      Meanwhile I’ll take a look

  • Anupam Mazumdar says:

    Mayank,

    If you plan to traverse the opposite route, Kullu to Manali to Spiti, there is no problem, just that it is uphill and slightly more risky. We did that and saw that last month.

    Rohtang Pass you have to pass if you traverse through Himachal across Spiti and Manali.

    Otherwise you will have to come from Ladakh from Srinagar :-) (another 7 days)

    Kalpa -> -Poo… Yes i was suggesting that road. It might be cold in october, but the real beauty will be felt at that time only.

    Regarding taking parents: My parents covered the entire Shimla – to -Shimla circuit (1148KM) and did not face any issue. However, if your parents have nausea or breathing problems, do not carry them. At kunzum pass (height 15000 ft), there might be issues. My parent however could not trek, so we were not able to cover chandratal lake at that time.

    Regards
    Anupam Mazumdar

  • rahul dhar says:

    hi Anupam

    can you please mail me the travel agent name who have booked the tour, as me and my family planning for same tour on month of October 9th, its urgent
    my mail id
    [email protected]

  • KUNTAL GHOSH says:

    After reading this blog i had hired this scoundrel called lekhram sharma.He is a very bad man …to say the least.His innocent looks may fool you but he is always trying to cheat you.He is a smartass who inflatesl every distance and every journey time by 20-25 %….so if a journey is for 5 hours he will tell you that it will take 6 1/2 hrs and screw your plans. He tries to travel as little as possible so that his fuel will be saved.He completely messed my trip,misbehaved with my kids and even didnot alow us to stop for photography. STAY AWAY.

  • Amit Ray says:

    Dear Anupam,

    Is middle May is ok for proceeding Kunzum pass to reach Manali ?

  • Anupam Mazumdar says:

    Amit,
    Yes, but chandratal lake will be closed till June-July

  • RAJARSHEE DASGUPTA says:

    Please give me the contact details of driver. I am also planning to go kinnaur with family in coming February.

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