Chitkul is a charming village in Himachal Pradesh, situated on the border of India and Tibet. It is surrounded by snow-peaked Himalayan Ranges all around it. The cold vibes and harmonious scenery of Chitkul will throw you into the cascade of emotions. It will trap you in itself for the time you will be present there. A picture perfect destination for me and my friends as we went for an excursion into the unknown, and left with beautiful memories.
Recently, Chitkul is growing as a tourist spot, especially visited by people who are traveling towards the Spiti valley. The road towards Chitkul is a 40 km diversion from Karcham, and taking that diversion will definitely be worth it.
I visited Chitkul with 4 of my friends for 4 days. During those days I have collected much information and followed some of the most important instructions on the whole trip. Thus with my experience, here I have curated an article with some of the most important travel tips for you, before visiting Chitkul Village.
Wait till the last one, there is a bonus tip for you in the end.
1. How to reach Chitkul
There are several ways you can reach Chitkul, depending upon your itienary and the breaks you are taking in your journey.
If you want to visit Chitkul directly from Delhi, then there is a direct bus from Kashmiri Gate ISBT, Delhi to Sangla(25 km away from Chitkul). The bus leaves around 9:58 P.M. from Delhi and the price of the ticket is Rs860/person. It will drop you Sangla around 5 or 5:30 P.M. the next day. From Sangla reach Chitkul via Cab(Rs300-Rs500/person) or if you are lucky then last bus leaves from Sangla to Chitkul around 5:30 P.M. So you reach Chitkul by 6;30 P.M.- 7 P.M.
Thus total travel time directly from Delhi to Chitkul will be 21 hours. I won’t be against the idea of doing this as I did it by myself. But it will be a very tiring journey and if you are going solo then it is a daring task. Do carry 2 liters of water if you are taking the direct bus.
Bus timings to and from Chitkul/Sangla:
|Sangla to Delhi||6:45 A.M.|
|Sangla to Reckong Peo||7:00 A.M./ 3:00 P.M.|
|Sangla to Rakcham(12 km before Chitkul)||8:00 A.M.|
|Chitkul to Chandigarh(preferred option for coming back)||4:00 P.M.- 7:00 A.M.|
|Shimla to Sangla||7:30 A.M.|
So if you don’t want to break your back like I did. Then plan your bus: Delhi to Shimla, take a day rest, then Shimla to Chitkul.
2. Where to Stay in Chitkul/Stay in a Homestay
Chitkul is slowly growing as a tourist spot, thus there many new hotels/homestay/hostels in the village.
I stayed at Mannat Home Stay, it is an amazing homestay and has the best location(on top of the whole village). The food served is fairly simple, which is beneficiary for the tiring walks in the mountains.
Call the owner of Homestay before visiting Chitkul for prior bookings, to skip all the hassle for searching after tiring bus journey.
I will prefer staying in a homestay, and Come here to know Why you should stay in a Homestay on your next destination.
3. Take Bike on Rent from Zostel
There is no other place from where you can rent bikes in Chitkul. The only place to rent is from Zostel Property, which is 20 m away from bus stand. The bike is also available for people who are not staying at Zostel.
Contact their reception for renting out the bike.
4. Best time to visit Chitkul
May-June-July is the peak time to visit Chitkul or the whole Kinnaur valley as such. The temperature flirts around 1 degree to 14 degrees Celsius. I visited the village in late May, when the temperature is around Max 9 degrees, and Min. 1 degree. So during this time, the cold vibes will be there, but at a much-minimized level. It is also the time when there are best stargaze, and also the whole Chitkul is bloom in green colors due to the agriculture in the area.
Most of the roads towards Chitkul is open during these months. But during these months there are chances of pre monsoon rainfall, so do check weather before visiting the village.
Late July-August is the time of heavy rains, and monsoon hits the whole Chitkul. It is probably the worst time to visit Chitkul, because of road closures, and landslides.
September-October- November,these months are described as the best time to visit Chitkul. The pre winter months are the time when valley is blessed by Apples. It is an offbeat season so price of Hotels/Buses will be less in comparison to prior months.
December-January-February, if you want to enjoy Chitkul like a white blanket, then visit the village during these months. But keep many buffer days with you because of the road closures(sometimes even for a month). Planning your trip in these months can be a little dangerous because of extreme conditions in the whole Kinnaur valley. There have been incidents of month long electricity cut in Chitkul, during winter season.
5. Take your camera to capture the breathtaking landscape
6. Trek to the top of Village/ Flag top
A small hike to the top of the cliff behind the village, which has a flag of India at its top. It will be a hike worth taking since you can see the hidden peaks behind the ranges. The whole view of Chitkul village will be visible from halfway up the hike. Total time for ascending will be an hour or 2. It starts from the monastery of the village and is a steep hike until you reach the flag.
Do check the weather or ask locals, so that you don’t get caught in unexpected rainfall, otherwise descending from the top will get really tough and slippery.
7. Reduce the use of Plastic
I am guilty of practicing this while visiting Chitkul, and it will haunt me for a very long time. But I request you, reduce the use of plastics because there is no facility of recycling of plastic. Thus the whole village burns the plastic inside a metal container. So with increasing tourism, this practice will increase a lot of problem in the region.
Refill your bottles regularly, buy things in plastic only when it is necessary, and focus on consuming local food. Even a packet of Maggi harms environment in a devastating manner.
8. Dive into the magic of Baspa River
The magical Baspa River cutting through the ranges of Himalaya like a knife. It’s gushing sounds is a pleasure for every vibration it creates in your drums. Every moment you spend beside the river is precious, and you will thank nature for the extravaganza it creates. It is at a slight descent from the “Aakhiri Dhaba”. If you are visiting chitkul then a visit to the riverside is a must.
9. Fill your stomach at Akhiri Dhaba
The food at Aakhiri Dhaba is pretty average. But the experience of eating at the last Dhaba of India is amazing. It is quite cheap with its rate, and it was recommended by my Homestay owner. I will tell you a special dish in Dhaba, it is “Rajma Chawal” for only Rs80/plate.
10. Relax in the lap of Chitkul
It is quite an obvious thing. But still, I will confess that I went to Chitkul with thoughts of doing many treks and walks. As it turns out in the middle of the trip that, Chitkul is a place to relax and taking that 20-hour bus journey was an adventure in itself. The magical Baspa river, cold vibes, and view of tall peaks of Himalayas will make you want to just sit and admire this beauty all day long.
11. Plan your trip for 3-4 days
This is quite the genius decision which I took. Similarly, you should also take the decision of planning your trip for 3-4 days. Chitkul is not a weekend destination if you live in Delhi. If you want to absorb it completely then you should give it sometime to take over you. Therefore, plan an itinerary which includes at least 2-3 night stays in Chitkul.
12. Check for moon and clouds to catch a glimpse of Milky Way
I was unlucky in this case, since I never spotted the magical stars of Chitkul. However, learning from my experience I will tell you that, do check the status of Moon and clouds(<50%). I will advise you to go during the New Moon week so that you can spot star-trails and capture them.
13. Skip a stay at Sangla for Chitkul
Not the most important one, but it was much important for me. For instance, I reached Sangla around 5:30 P.M. but since I contacted my homestay owner earlier only, and all of my arrangement was completed for a stay at Chitkul. I skipped Sangla immediately by cab, and after talking to other travelers, it was a good decision. Sangla is a noisy town which is 30 km away from Chitkul and it is the place where hotels and commercialization are already present. So Skip it for Chitkul from your itinerary if possible!
14. Explore the village for Interesting Stories
Do this even if you are going in a group. Because of its location near the border, the locals have many interesting stories to tell you. You will learn about the hardship of Kinnauri people, and how do they survive even in -20 degrees. The locals are absolutely lovely and they will help you out in any case. You never know, you may discover an unknown dreamy spot after asking a local.
15. Curfew after 8 o’ clock in the evening
Yes! due to its close proximity to border. There is lot of presence of army in the village, and one rule which should be followed by everyone is that, you should not roam outside after 8 P.M..
16. Don’t smoke in Public
It is a strict rule for the outsiders as well that, you are not allowed to smoke publicly in the village. If caught you will be punished with a heavy fine by army authorities. It is quite a serious offense to commit since my friends were warned by my Homestay owner. Obviously, you can smoke in your homestay, but not while roaming in the village. So be careful regarding your practices in the village.
17. Pack your clothes Smartly
Chitkul is located in the colder region of Himalayas, and the weather here is sunny for very less time. Thus you should pack very smartly while visiting Chitkul.
Below are some of the most most important things to carry:
- Jacket(For extreme cold)
- Winter socks(2-3 pairs)
- Good trekking shoes
- Rain jacket/Umbrella is a must
18. Be prepared for a no network zone
Yes, you heard it right. Apart from BSNL/MTNL/DOLPHIN 2G network, there is no mobile network in the village. Jio is available but 3 kms away from the village. You will loose all connection by the time you reach Chitkul. It is a blessing in disguise, since it adds to your experience in village. I didn’t have many issues of going into no network zone because I have already had a experience of it in Raithal Village.
19. No ATM after Sangla
The last place to take out your money through ATM is only in Sangla. It is an SBI Atm parallel to SBI branch of Sangla. So make sure you carry enough cash before leaving Sangla.
20. Do carry your sunscreen/lip balm
A terrible mistake done by me and my friends. If you don’t want your skin to get dry for weeks after your trip then do carry sunscreen and lip balm with you. It sounds like not the most important thing to remember, but trust me; you should remember this. Otherwise, your skin will turn in Blue/Black or basically get dry to much extent.
21. Carry adequate Medicines
One of the most important things to take care of. Since Chitkul is at an elevation of up to 3,500 meters there are chances of Headaches, Dizziness, vomiting or even AMS when you arrive there. So carry adequate medicines with you. Even the bus journey takes a toll on many people, therefore definitely carry medicine for Nausea. Also, carry medicine for cold/fever.
Bonus Tip: Visit Chitkul while it is still in its raw form
It is the advise I got from many backpackers/travelers, they told me to visit Chitkul as soon as I can. Therefore, I planned a trip on my next possible dates. But after visiting the place I got to know what they were talking about. The cruel eyes of commercialization has already been casted on Chitkul. There are construction of Hotels all along the main road. Camps have already been established beside the river.
It already has a vibe of becoming next Kasol. I know it will be beneficial for the local community who will earn revenue through the boom in tourism. But the original magic of Chitkul will be gone forever. So don’t plan it for next year or next month, and pack your bags right now to skip away from everything to Chitkul.
Visiting Chitkul will be one of your most memorable experience. While exploring the village you will definitely explore something new in yourself. The vibe it nourishes in itself will hold you in awe with its beauty. It has everything like mountains, rivers, jungles, interesting stories, and sweet locals, for a dream getaway from your daily life. Thus visit Chikul and slump yourself in the lap of spectacular.
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