Surrounded by the majestic mountains on all sides, a road leading until here and then ending at this village, a glacial river flowing down and clouds floating around, with the sun rising in the backdrop; yes, that is Chitkul for you! It might seem like one of those places which you used to see on wallpapers and paintings, and then one day, you’re right there in this Himachali village.
That morning in Chitkul, when I stepped out of the room and looked at the mountains being kissed by the sun rays & the clouds playing around, I felt a weird sense of joy! I wondered if the Himalayas knew about the magic they possess… to spread happiness amongst souls that are often lost in the chaos & cacophony of the urban jungles!
‘Not On Maps’ – These words were written on a board that hung outside the homestay! I’m not sure if it’s really there or not, but I surely know that it’s not a place meant for all. I remembered the previous night when I thought of having a warm bath, and ended up pouring freezing cold water on myself, shivering until my body felt numb and then walked out feeling refreshed than ever! I remembered the local alcohol that was given to us, while our hosts narrated the stories of hunting snow leopards and bears. It might sound unbelievable, but they showed us the skin of the animals that have been stuffed with cotton and decorated with pride.
Where Is Chitkul Located?
The last village on the Indo-Tibet border, Chitkul, is truly one of the hidden gems of India. It is surrounded by Garhwal Region on the South and Tibet on the East. While the Northern side is surrounded by Spiti Valley, the West leads to Kullu.
Located at a height of 3450 meters (approx 11,319 ft), this tiny hamlet in the remote hills of Himalayas looks absolutely postcard-perfect. With Kinnaur Kailash in the backdrop, Chitkul boasts its unparalleled beauty on the banks of Baspa River. On one side of the river, you can witness the beauty of the Himalayan mountains while the other side has a terrain full of wooden houses and apple orchards.
The Indo-Tibet border is approximately 90 km from Chitkul village. All civilian movement beyond Chitkul is prohibited. This is the reason why Chitkul is called the last village in India. The area lying beyond Chitkul village is under the control of the Indo-Tibet Border Police (a 3 kilometers hike from Chitkul, along the Baspa River, will take you to Nagasti ITBP check post).
How To Reach Chitkul?
The roads across the Kinnaur Region endowed us with a thrilling adventure that was unmatchable. The lush green of the forested mountains complemented by the cobalt blue of the skies almost makes one forget the insanely difficult roads leading to Chitkul. Well, once you embark on the journey, you’d know the reason why they are known to be one of the most treacherous roads in the world.
Kickstarting our journey from New Delhi, crossing Chandigarh, and finally reaching Shimla, we halted for a night before continuing to the higher altitude the next day. Here’s the route that we followed:
Shimla (2200 mt) » Narkanda (2708 mt) » Rampur (1350 mt) » Karcham (1813 mt) » Sangla (2696 mt) » Rakcham (3048 mt) » Chitkul (3450 mt)
Starting from Shimla at around 6 AM, we stopped at Narkanda for breakfast and walked around an apple orchard where trees bore juicy fruits in the month of August. The road took us along the crest of the mountains, for the most part, gliding along lush valleys and providing beautiful green vistas as our companion. For lunch, we halted at Sangla at a roadside Dhaba which served us a delightful Himachali thali. It was around the evening when we finally reached Chitkul.
Travel time from Shimla to Chitkul is approx 10 hours if the roads are clear.
How’s The Weather In Chitkul?
Well, to be honest, being located at a high altitude amidst the Himalayas has blessed Chitkul with a cold climate. No matter which time of the year you travel here, it will always be cold enough that you’d need sweaters/ jackets. The weather changes very rapidly and even in summers, a sudden fall in temperature may trigger winter-like conditions. I was in Chitkul during August when the day temperature is around 10 degrees Celcius and at night, it drops to 4 – 5 Degrees Celcius.
From October, winter kicks in, and by December, the entire region is covered under a heavy layer of snow. The roads from Karcham to Chitkul get blocked completely and thus, it’s not advisable to plan a trip in the winters.
The villagers tend to move to a lower elevation for surviving the harshly cold winter months in Kinnaur. The hamlet of Chitkul is virtually cut off from the entire world during this time.
What’s The Best Time To Visit Chitkul?
If you are thinking about what would be the best time to visit Chitkul, then that is definitely August & September (not being biased while saying this!). This is the time when the entire Kinnaur Valley comes to life. With all the colorful blossoms surrounding the area, the place looks extremely heavenly. You can also visit the place during the summer months from April to June. The clear blue skies and beautiful surroundings would be welcoming enough for you and also help you beat the scorching summer heat of the plains in Northern India!
Where To Stay In Chitkul?
The best option would be to stay at a homestay and enjoy the company of the locals, binge on their authentic food and listen to their stories. There can surely be no other way to soak in the vibes of the place. Otherwise, you can also opt to stay at Zostel Chitkul – which is located on the banks of the Baspa River.
There are a few camping spots near the village and you can easily spot some locals to help you out! So, do not hesitate to take your camping gear and spend a night beside the Baspa River under the starlit sky.
Here Are Some Tips That You May Find Useful While Visiting Chitkul
- No permits are required to visit Chitkul.
- There’s no petrol pump is present in Chitkul. You can get the Petrol Pump in Reckong Peo or near Tapri, so make sure you’re well-prepared in case you’re driving down to this place.
- There’s no ATM available – so carry enough cash to sustain yourself.
- BSNL/Jio works intermittently, no other connections will connect. Enjoy the isolation as mobile connectivity is not that great in Chitkul barring BSNL/Jio which works intermittently.
- No clinic/hospital is in Chitkul. The nearest hospital is in Sangla or Reckong Peo. However, the Army is especially helpful in case of any issues – don’t hesitate to ask for help.
- Since you’ll be at a high altitude, it’s essential to keep yourself hydrated – so drink enough water.
- Chitkul has some amazing hiking/trekking routes. In case you’re seeking some adventure, you can carry your trekking shoes and go for a short day trek with a local guide.
- Carry adequate warm clothes – ‘coz as I mentioned earlier, no matter which season it is, the temperature might drop anytime!
Things To Do In Chitkul
Although I was there for just a day, you can easily spend 2 to 3 days in this pristine village. To be honest, there’s nothing much to do – but then again, where else would you find such solace, to unwind amidst nature and walk along the banks of a glacial river?
Soaking in the sunshine, I walked around the village in the morning before taking a walk around the Mathi Devi Temple. No matter whether you’re a believer or not, you must make sure to visit the Mathi Devi Temples in Chitkul. There are 3 temples, and the oldest one is said to be around 500 years old! The entire temple complex is beautiful and I was in awe of the intricate wooden architecture. The villagers believe that Mathi Devi – the Goddess, has blessed the village and protected them from the adversities of the world.
Later, I went down to the river bank and sat there for some time. The silence of the valley was disrupted by the rumblings of the river, as I watched the clouds playing around the mountains. It felt like time has taken a pause…