Long weekend at Kinnaur Valley (Kalpa, Sangla, Chitkul)



Slowly, the Sangla (or the Baspa valley) unfolds in front of your eyes. The small town of Sangla has few shops, few restaurant and some hotels. If you are tired, find a place and stay. Best, if you could manage the PWD guest house. We were not tired, and wanted to move ahead to Chitkul. A drive of about an hour or so will take you to the last village. The road from Sangla to Rakcham is well maintained and then there is a section of off road up-to Chitkul. As told earlier- it’s not at all scary or difficult. Just take your time and you’ll reach your destination.

Once you reach, you’ll know why it is so different and mesmerizing in many ways. The open valley, white mountains and the meandering Baspa river will make a beautiful frame in front of you. Find a place to stay as per your budget. Thakur and Rani guest houses are cheap options, which also remain open in early March. There are couple of other home stays as well. Fresh up and go out for a walk. The concrete path will take you to the river side in no time. Spend time, take snaps, enjoy the way you want. By the time you return, hot maggi and tea will be waiting for you. Relish them while watching the setting sunlight and rising full moon!

The moon will light up the mountains in a silver hue. The dark trees will occasionally sparkle as the light reflects on the white snow, accumulated on the leaves. Some stray dogs will come close to you for warmth, if you happen to sit outside. Inside the rooms will be cold too and can go as low as minus 10. Bring a portable room heater or ask for one- its needed. The mellow sound of snowfall on the roof or on the balcony will be something to listen to- so you might as well consider switching off your mobile music or take an eye off from reviewing the pics you have taken during the day.


# Gateway of the Tukpa (Baspa/ Kalpa) valley

#Chitkul from above


#Sr. secondary school at Chitkul

#full moon night at Chitkul



Day 3: The breathtaking view from Kalpa

Yet another beautiful morning! Gloomy you say? No issues, Chitkul is just sad that you are leaving. Have breakfast and pack your bags. A small drive of about 2hrs will bring you back to the Karcham dam. From there, take a right turn and continue. About an hour later, you’ll see a road going up towards Recong Peo. The road will climb up heights soon and the vista of the amazing Kinnaur Kailash range will unravel its wings.

From Recong Peo, take a left turn to go towards Kalpa. A series of hairpin bends will lift you even higher. Now the Kinnaur Kailash is at your eye level. Not really, but it seems so. Continue for couple hundred meters, cross the Kapla village and you’ll come to the place where there are only a few hotels. My favorite is the Rakhpa Regency, which is at the end of the road. Also you can go for Apple Pie, Kalpa Retreet or the The Grand Shamba La. The HPTDC hotel will also offer you an amazing view. Check in, take rest and enjoy the mountains from your balcony with the slow sip of coffee.


See, it’s impossible to describe the beauty of the view in words. No adjectives and superlatives are enough to put it in black and white. All I want to say is that Kalpa will bring you closer to the god. You can say hello or just say cheers (why not!) to the white mountains, which is for so long, the abode of the gods. Take a walk to the village, see the temple, have some Thukpa from a narrow street side shop or talk to a local. Do you know that the oldest voter of the country lives there and he didn’t miss even a single election, since independence!

It’s okay if you do not get to recognize him as he and many other in the village lives a simple ‘ordinary’ life. They are happy too! They will probably tell you how good it sounds to live in the cities like Delhi or Mumbai. The facilities, the accessibilities with all modern amenities are well- just makes our lives so much better- Right? – Wrong. No one goes to the city to live- we go there to work, to earn and that is why we come to these remote places, which fill our hearts. Tell them that they are living a free life and we in Delhi have to pay even for fresh air! Once, one of my friends asked me whether I wanted to gift a pollution musk to my wife. “I’d rather take her to Himachal and that’ll do” – I replied.

Talk to the local for some more time, or come back to the hotel to enjoy the setting sun. It will leave its marks long after you bid good bye to it. The last bit of sun ray on the mountain top will tell you which one is the highest of them. Take a pick of a peak and see if you are right to guess that. The results- well does it really matter! It will give you the excuse to look at the mighty mountains for some more times – don’t let it go.


#the lone explorer


#Kalpa (Hotel Rakhpa Regency)


Day 1: Always at Narkanda

For the last three years, we end the first day of our journey at Narkanda. It is reasonably drivable from Delhi and importantly, not so crowded like Shimla. Moreover, by the time we reach, there is still some amount of daytime left to see walk around. The key is to start early, let’s say by 4-5 am so that you can reach there around 3-4pm.
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#view from Fagu (2018)

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#view from the homestay (March 2017)

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#view from the homestay (2018)

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#On Hatu Mt. (2018)

There are couple of stay options, but we stayed at the ‘Hatu Home Stay’ run by Mr. Sukh Dev ji and his family. It is little isolated with amazing views of the valley. The home made food will add on to the home-stay feel for sure. Take some time to come to the balcony at night, switch off the room lights and enjoy the night sky, floating clouds and twinkling starts. The dimming lights from the far off villages will dance slowly as they pass through the wind to reach you. Some night owls or wild animals occasionally tell you that you are in their territory. Take a deep breath of fresh cold air, before you say good night!

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Killer pics !!

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Day 4 and 5 – going back home with a promise to come back

Wake up late, take some extra time to completely open up your eyes…but once you do, make sure you say hello to the white mountains in front of you! Today is the day, we usually start returning. Depending on your energy level and time in hand- you can drive till Narkanda or Fagu. Or if you wish to extend your stay for one more day, go to Sarahan, about half hour drive from Jeori. It’s a nice small village with a minutely designed Kali temple. The Snow View Hotel or the HPTDC one will give wide view of the valley and the white mountains.

Next day, start your day early. If Delhi is your home, then it may seem a little further than it actually is. In other words, the distances on paper (or on google map) will seem longer when you drive. It is not because you are tired – perhaps it is because your heart still do not want to go back to the concrete jungle.

#Kalpa at dusk


#Kalpa- Winter and Summer


#Sunrise at Kinnaur


#Fun time !



Looking back towards the last 3-4 or 5 days of your life, may be you discover one interesting point. Someone once asked me, ‘what are the things to see there?’ Well, I hope everything and at the same time, nothing. If you are looking for a place with sightseeing points- Sangla, Chitkul or Kalpa has none. But if you are someone who finds solace in the midst of nature- Kinnaur will open its heart to you. Enjoy the morning walks, enjoy watching your kids playing on the snow, cherish the moment when your mom becomes a kid again or you feel a true connection with yourself in the middle of nowhere. You’ll realize that the clichéd saying is actually true- ‘there’s something money can’t buy’.

I guess, it’s our hearts, which call for the mountains. And since they cannot come to us, we must go to them. Probably that is why we go there year after year. You see, it is like meeting old friends, and as always, there’s lot of stories to share with each other. So until the next reunion… hasta la vista, amigo!


C/o Dr. Sayantan Mandal
Academic by profession, explorer by passion.