Self-Drive road trip to Spiti Valley is not just a journey but a Zen like experience where you connect with yourself mentally, physically and spiritually. It makes you sweat and then shower the bounty of life. It pushes you to stretch your limits and then bless you with superlative natural beauty. It makes you break all the inhibitions and then encourage you to move ahead to dream more and be more. It breaks the wall of your comfort zone and then offers you a new horizon full of opportunities and possibilities.
Why should you plan a self-drive road trip to Spiti Valley
Spiti Valley is like a mother, who prepares you for a blissful life; encourages you to go further and farther; gives you reason to excel yourself, and finally celebrate success with you.
Meticulously plan self-drive road trip to Spiti Valley
After we completed our road trip to Spiti in August 2014, we so damnly wanted to go beyond and meander along Spiti river. We had an idea about what waits for us there and have heard legendary stories about Self Drive Road trip. We have seen TV shows where road from Shimla to Kaza was declared as the most dangerous road trip on our planet. We knew our limitation in the form of our hatch back, however, we also were aware of the possibilities. This one year of complete planning was a mix of excitement, fear, thrill and apprehensions.
It is important to plan because you would indeed be challenged by nature and its uncertain cameos; You would be driving on a tough terrain which require you to be mentally tough and physically fit; You would be crossing great Himalayas and venturing into trans Himalayan valley with limited access to outer world; You would be daring to cross high Himalayan passes and drive on riverbeds. You would be racing against time every day as there is much to explore, experience, take photographs and feel; you would be charting into high Himalayan territory which is known for highly unpredictable weather conditions.
Prepare your vehicle for Spiti Valley road trip
Know your priorities to have best time in Spiti Valley
Prepare itinerary well in advance for a smooth road trip to Spiti Valley
Once you have your priorities in place and you know the number of days available, prepare the itinerary keeping following points in mind –
- Most of the days, you would have to stick to daytime driving so do not plan any stretched day. Plan to reach your destination around sunset to enjoy the golden hours.
- Every day, Spiti valley would give you hundreds reason to capture the moment and that means you would take photo-stops very frequently. Make sufficient provision for this while preparing hourly itinerary for each day.
- Himalayan terrain of Spiti valley is an uncertain geography, so please keep one day buffer to address any unfortunate happenstance like landslide, road blockage, snow fall etc.
- Make room for being spontaneous. No, matter how much you plan or visualize, you would be tempted to make detours and you should be ready for this. After all, self-drive road trip is all about pacing up your trip as per your wish.
Celebrate your success at Manali after you have successfully done the complete Spiti Circuit. I strongly suggest a day of relax and rejuvenation at Manali.
Suggestive Itinerary – Self drive road trip to Spiti Valley
With above points in mind, prepare your library and download all google maps in your device. I also recommend carrying physical road atlas also for reference. Here, I am sharing a suggestive itinerary from Delhi for your ready reference.
- Day 1 – Delhi to Narkanda (Try to cross Shimla and then plan your stay)
- Day 2 – Start early from Narkanda and reach Sangla for night stay
- Day 3 – Sangla to Kalpa (Kalpa is a must stop place and explore Roghi this day)
- Day 4 – Kalpa to Nako (Enjy scenic uphill from Khab to Nako)
- Day 5 – Nako to DHankar Via Tabo (make sure you take a detour before Tabo and visit Gue Village to see Spiti’s own Mummy. Right after Nako there is ainfamous Malling Nallah and it is advisable to start your day early to cross this Nallah around sun rise.
- Day 6 – Dhankar to Pin Valley (Mudh Village)
- Day 7 – Pin Valley to Kaza
- Day 8 – Kaza to Kaumic via Langza and Hikkim
- Day 9 – Kaza to Key and Kibber
- Day 10 – Kaza to Chandratal via Kunzum Pass
- Day 11 – Chandratal to Manali
- Day 12 – Manali to Sundernagar (Relax at Manali, celebrate your accomplishment and leave in afternoon to take a stop at Sundernagar or Chandigarh)
- Day 13 – Sundernagar/Chandigarh to Delhi
- Day 14 – Keep it as buffer day to meet any eventuality.
Follow driving rules and signages
- Use same gear while descending as you had used on the same gradient uphill.
- Avoid using breaks as much as possible and control speed with right gear.
- Follow your lane always and avoid driving on center of the road
- Remember, ascending vehicle has the first right to the road
- Trust the driver ahead of you and don’t take risk in taking over
- Maintain the speed. Remember, it’s not a race. Your trophy would be the bundle of memories only if you come back home.
- Follow all road side signages as they are there for a reason.
- Many passing by locals will jeer at you for your driving skill, please be patient with them. Always keep in mind you are trespassing their landscape.
- Ensure you have all documents checked at every check post as and when required. Make sure to carry id proof to be on safer side as foreigners require inner line permit to visit certain areas and hence ID proof may be checked at few points.
Interact with locals
For many times, we have been guided by locals to an unknown place which was mind blowing; they helped us with best photo points, sunset etc. Their road side quick story motivated us umpteen times to take a detour and explore. Their warnings about road conditions have saved us from discomfort or probable mishap. So, keep talking to locals at every opportunity to know more about the place, road conditions and Do’s and Don’t’s.
We must feel ourselves duty bound to support local economy. Buy from locals and buy local things. Carry small things from your place like stationery, books, and crayons and gift them to the kids. Such things are luxury for them and bring smile on their face which would be your one of the most treasured memory from Spili Valley. Also remeber not to spoil their landscape by intentional or unintentional littering.
Practical photography tips for Spiti Valley
Spiti is a treasure trove for a photographer. Meandering along Spiti River put you in a constant mode to capture unseen and unbelievable natural landscapes. You will find yourself in a state of perpetual catch 22 situation, whether to use camera lenses or your eyes to capture the beauty.
Take AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) seriously in Spiti Valley
- We ate light food everyday. We never stuffed ourselves and referred to eat small portion frequently. Eat fibrous food and dry fruits as much as possible.
- We drank water frequently in small quantity.
- We took Diamox after consultation with doctor two days before reaching Dhankar.
- Once in high altitude area, we took everything slow and didn’t exhaust ourselves doing any physical activity.
- And last but most important is to have a sound sleep every day.
Help every fellow traveler
Himalaya is known for unknown hands of help. We were immensely helped by a group of unknown riders who made our arduous drive from Chandratal to Rohtang super easy. It could not have been possible for us to kiss the tarmac at Rohtang amidst golden peaks without their constant companionship.
In an unknown territory as mighty as Himalaya where every passing turn is a blessing and upcoming curve an uncertainty, it is fellow travelers who could save you from disaster and ultimately make your evening more joyful.