Abhi isn’t the road route that leads to Chitkul get closed in winters due to the heavy snowfall? Yes, it does. So how did I make it to India’s last inhabited village “Chitkul” in winters? Did I book a helicopter ride? Or did I skydived to make it to Chitkul? Hell no!! These are expensive options and not on Onacheaptrip’ s dictionary😃. So how did I?
Snow Covered roads on way to Chitkul in winters
Is fitness related to travel? In my case it absolutely is. I asked myself when I can run a full marathon (42.195 kms), should it be a problem to walk for around 48 kms? Shouldn’t be is what I said to myself and kick-started my journey towards Chitkul from Sangla (24 kms). 5 hours of insane walking through the snowy roads with surroundings that seemed to be heaven and yes, I made it to Chitkul. The journey wasn’t over yet; I needed to be back to Sangla by the end of the day for a reason.
Sangla to Chitkul (24 kms) road route in winters
Before I go into details on my journey to Chitkul, let us first talk about the place itself. Situated in the Kinnaur district of Himachal, Chitkul lies at an altitude of around 11,319 feet above sea level (3450 m) and is the last inhabited village near the Indo-China border. The Indian roads end here!! The place remains snow covered for the most part of the winter season and the inhabitants move to the lower regions of the state.
Chitkul in winters is snow covered
Chitkul is a place straight out of a fairy tale. Surrounded by snow-cladded mountains from three sides, a river flowing down from up the mountains with the sun rising in the backdrop; dense forest cover on one side and small houses with wooden plank roofs on the other side. A place that you used to see in paintings and wallpapers and then suddenly arrived there yourself.
Chitkul visit by onacheaptrip in the winter season
The snowy road on way to Chitkul in winters
How to reach Chitkul in cheapest way?
There are two ways to reach Chitkul, one via Shimla route and other via Manali route. Manali is the longer one as one has to cover the entire Spiti Valley to reach Chitkul and also the route remains closed in winter season. If you are doing the Spiti circuit, you can choose that route, I will only be discussing the Shimla route.
To keep hydrated – a good option
Chandigarh is the nearest major railway station to Chitkul which is located at a distance of around 350 kms (12 hours). From Chandigarh, you can take an HRTC bus for Shimla (112 kms – 4 hours). From Shimla, you can either catch an HRTC bus for Reckong Peo or Sangla whichever you get first. There are overnight buses from Delhi and Chandigarh to Reckong Peo/Sangla as well.
If you are in a Reckong Peo bus, get down at Karcham from where the road diverts for Sangla-Chitkul. You can either wait for a bus for Sangla or Chitkul or take a shared taxi from Karcham (INR 40-100) (stand by the bridge). Sangla to Chitkul is around 24 kms and one can either opt for a bus or a shared taxi to reach the same (remember frequency is very less).
Sangla to Chitkul Bus is at 12.00 PM & 2:30 PM (return 1:30 PM & 4:00 PM from Chitkul), so you catch the first bus and return by the second one. If you travelling from Delhi, I would recommend you to take a halt at Narkanda (410 kms – 10 hours) which is a beautiful town. From Narkanda you can catch a bus for Peo/Sangla the following day.
Sunset view at Sangla Valley
Getting around Chitkul
The town is small and can be easily covered strolling around. There is nothing much to see in the town, it’s the overall beauty of the place that will make you fall in love with this tiny hidden gem. You can walk to Nagasthi ITBP post which is around 4kms from the town, it’s the last point up to which civilians are allowed to go. Interacting with soldiers here is an experience in itself.
Chitkul in Winters
My journey to Chitkul Himachal
Before starting the 20 day’s trip to Himachal, I had hardly planned anything. I knew that there was no point in planning this trip at all as Himachal was everywhere on the news due to the record-breaking snowfall after the year 2013. Most of the routes in the higher regions would probably be closed and I may be left stranded in a town for days till the snow gets cleared.
Near to Rakchham on way to Chitkul in winters
Sangla valley near Chitkul in winters
The only thing I had in my mind was that I will try my best to visit Chitkul, Kalpa and Spiti valley. It had been a long term dream of visiting these parts of Himachal in the winter season. With all the blogs on Chitkul over the internet saying that making it to the town in winter season is next to impossible, and with a record-breaking snowfall this year, I highly doubted on my visit to Chitkul.
On way from Sangla to Rakchham
After exploring the towns of Chail, Shimla, Narkanda, next on my list was Sangla & Chitkul. From Narkanda, I took a bus that was headed for Reckong Peo and got down at Karcham. Since there was a lot of Snow after Karcham, the only possible way to make it to Sangla was taking shared taxis (bus wasn’t going). The road journey from Karcham to Sangla was breathtaking with the road almost being covered with a thin snow layer.
Heavenly scenes at the road leading to Chitkul in winters
After reaching Sangla, when I inquired about transport to Chitkul, I was told that road is almost covered by 3-5 feet of snow and there is no way I can make it to Chitkul. Maybe I can possibly walk to Rakcham which is like 14 kms from Sangla on way to Chitkul and come back. Since it was late afternoon, I decided to stay at Sangla for the night and figure out early morning what to do.
Heavy snow covered roads enroute Chitkul in winters
The whole night I dreamt of visiting Chitkul, I wanted to see it covered with the snow blanket. Next morning when I woke up around 7 am, I simply opened Gmaps, typed Chitkul and checked the route. The distance was around 24 kms. I started with the calculations and wondered if I can walk all the way to Chitkul and come back by evening. So that would be like 48 kms of walking which may take around 11-12 hours.
Rakcham village on way to Chitkul in winters
Yes, it’s possible, I said to myself and started my journey. The initial road route from Sangla to Rakchham was covered with just a thin layer of snow, thanks to the government of Himachal who keeps on clearing snow from road routes. It was a long walk along the snowy route from Sangla to Rakchham (3.5 hours -14 kms). But the views were just outstanding. To be frank, I have no words to describe it, let the pictures do the talking.
At Rakchham near Chitkul
Rakcham village as seen on way to Chitkul in winters
After exploring Rakchham, I continued my journey towards Chitkul which was still 10 kms away. The route from Rakchham and Chitkul was covered with heavy snow, as machines hadn’t been deployed yet to clear the snow. It was getting really difficult to walk on the thick layer of snow. Every time as I stepped a foot forward, snow used to be till my knee level at least. Just the help was the foot-marks of villagers who might have walked all the way.
JCB removing snow on Chitkul road routes
Bridge covered with snow on way to Chitkul in winters
But the views of the surrounding region kept me moving. I was all alone on the entire route, just me and the heavenly nature. The entire Sangla valley was covered with thick snow sheets and with the sky being cloudy, it seemed I was somewhere in a white wonderland. Though it was extremely chilly, I couldn’t stop myself taking clicks of such astonishing views. The day temperature was in the range of -5 degree to -8 degree Celsius.
Road entirely covered in snow enroute to Chitkul in winters
Chitkul town just a few metres away
A few times I thought of giving up as the conditions were extreme. You always have to keep a watch on the adjoining mountain as snow comes sliding down and you may get buried by tonnes of snow. Luckily as the sun wasn’t there, snow wasn’t melting and coming down. The route to Chitkul was like a road to heaven. The mountains, the waterfalls, snow-covered valleys, the small iron bridges, everything looked so amazing. Finally, after walking for almost 6 hours, I made it to Chitkul.
Snow comes sliding down from adjoining mountains
There were tears in my eyes, tears of happiness to be able to make it to the last village of India in such extreme conditions. The views of the town were majestic. I just saw one or two locals in the entire town, they too were stunned to see me😃. Making it to the ITBP seemed impossible(still 4 kms) and I didn’t give it a thought as well. Chitkul has the cleanest air in India and yes I could feel it.
The White Chitkul village
To be honest, there is nothing much to see in Chitkul. It is just a tiny village with a handful of houses and a temple. It is not really a place for people who like visiting touristy towns like Shimla and Manali. That set of people will definitely be disappointed here. The only thing to do here is to sit back and relax and enjoy the natural beauty all around you; to savour on the mesmerizing vistas and listen to the silence.
Houses in Chitkul with mountains surrounding them
I had read the news about a few people being left stranded in Chitkul due to the heavy snowfall in past years and they were airlifted. So I decided not to stay here overnight and walk all the way back to Sangla. The return journey was a bit tiring and the wet shoes and socks were adding difficulties for me. I kept on moving and finally made back to Sangla at around 7 PM. The journey was definitely a lifetime experience and I loved every bit of it.
Heavy snow on roads en route to Chitkul in winters
ATM, Petrol Pump, medical & mobile network information
There is no ATM in Chitkul so make sure you carry enough cash. Also, there is no fuel station and if you are travelling on your own transport make sure you have enough fuel. The nearest medical facility is present in Sangla (24 kms). Only BSNL network works here, but if you walk a few meters from the town, you do get JIO signals.
Bsnl tower in Chitkul
Best time to visit Chitkul
One can never be certain about the weather in Chitkul, but one thing is for certain that no matter what time of the year you travel here, it will always be very cold.
The dangerous route to reach Chitkul in winters
In the winter season, the temperature is mostly below Zero which can even drop till -20 degree Celsius. Monsoons may not be considered a good time to visit the town as landslides are quite frequent. May to June or September to October is the best time to visit Chitkul as it becomes lush green with flowers of several colours blossoming all around. Again, the best time to visit Chitkul totally depends on an individual on what he is looking to experience.
Chitkul is heaven in winters
Food and stay options in Chitkul
Due to the extreme terrain, stay options in Chitkul are costly. So what people generally do is stay in Sangla and explore Chitkul on a day’s trip from there.
But if you are really looking forward to staying in Chitkul, it does have a few budget options, Zostel Chitkul being one of them. HP PWD guest house, the wanderer’s Nest, Amara homestay are the few others you can check out. Don’t expect luxuries in the small village. Also, most of these stay options remain closed in winter season so plan accordingly.
Zostel in Chitkul in winters is closed
There isn’t any special food which you can get in Chitkul, just the basic North Indian food. Don’t miss eating Maggi at the “Hindustan Ka Aakhiri Dhaba” which is an experience you are surely going to cherish.
River flowing at Chitkul in winters
The last inhabited village on the Indo-Tibet border “Chitkul” is truly one of the hidden gems of India. Speaking of its beauty, each sight is a magnificent sight to behold. You want to click pictures of heaven, come to Chitkul😃. Though on this visit to Chitkul, I couldn’t explore much of the town due to the extreme weather conditions, I am sure that I will be back soon in a different season.
I used the following backpack during this trip and will highly recommend it. (Quechua Forclaz 60 Backpack)
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