Every travel bug would’ve come across the phrase “A journey to the end of the world”. It’s always been an idea that clicks the button of fascination and it surely did for me when I heard about Chitkul.
The idea of travelling to the last inhabited village of India was enough to get me all riled up.
Hidden like a pearl safely within the oyster shell of Himalayas, the valley is known for its unusual and special beauty.
Being the ending point to the Hindustan-Tibet route and the beginning of the Baspa Valley, Chitkul has got several beautiful phases. The snow-clad mountains that never dry out of glacial rivers on one side and the wooden villages showcasing nature at its best form on the other side.
Prepare to be spellbound if you’re travelling to the valley of Chitkul!
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Nestled in the Kinnaur Valley of Himachal Pradesh, Chitkul is surrounded by the borderlines of Garhwal, Spiti, Kullu, and Tibet. Civilian movement beyond Chitkul is highly restricted, as exactly 90 km from the village lies the Indo-Tibet border.
At walking distance from the valley, you could also find several protected National parks and sanctuaries, making it an important biodiversity hotspot.
How to reach?
There are several airports connecting to the Chitkul valley and the nearest one is the Shimla Airport at 267 km. The airport is Jubbarhatti doesn’t have many touchdowns but is one of the easiest options available.
Bhuntar airport is the next closest option. Both these airports have limited options as compared to the frequency of flights at Chandigarh airport, which is at a farther distance of 358 km.
From here, you can avail of public transport facilities in Sangla village in Chitkul.
Train journey comes with the added advantage of reliving your childhood. The closest and viable option is the Shimla station connected to Kalka by the toy train. So along with the journey, you’re assured to have a scenic view of the valleys leading to Chitkul.
Once you reach Shimla, there are frequent buses and cab services available to Chitkul.
Chandigarh station at a distance of 350 km, is a more convenient option than the Kalka-Shimla train as it connects to major cities.
Even if nothing works out, there’s always the Himachal Road Transport Corporation to the rescue. From either Shimla, Delhi, or Chandigarh you can catch a bus to Sangla or Reckong Peo.
Those opting for a road trip to Chitkul will have to cross Chandigarh, Shimla, Narkanda to reach the villages of Sangla and Rakcham. Going downhill from Satluj there are crossover bridges offering picturesque drive-through routes, and the main stops of Chitkul are barely 9 km from thereon.
Taking Delhi as the starting point, the route would trace through
Shimla – Kufri – Narkanda -Karcham – Sangla – Rakcham – Chitkul.
Best time to visit
Travelling to Chitkul during winters would go in vain as the valley remains shrouded in a thick blanket of snow. Even the inhabitants temporarily move to the lower regions due to the area being frosted by snow.
So the ideal time to travel would be during summer when the entire valley comes to life. June to August, the floral expanse complimented with the sunny skies is beyond breathtaking.
With the end of monsoon during September, the valley becomes a more refreshing sight with the rivers flowing across the blossoms.
Top 10 places to go to
Offering one of the best panoramic views of the Himalayas at an altitude of above 11,300 ft, the valley welcomes you to an experience like no other.
Here’s a list of five such places you could go around in Chitkul,
Distance from Chitkul – 1.2 km
In the valley with the cleanest air, walking through the crystal clear waters is the most peaceful yet the most thrilling thing to do.
Passing through the Sangla hills is the icy river of Baspa that converges with the majestic Yamuna enroute.
The fast-paced river will keep you on your heels if you try chasing it, and dipping your feet in the flow would have you lose track of time.
It also shelters several beautiful rainbow and brown trouts, so enjoy some serene time watching the fish create ripples around the waters.
Mathi Devi Temple
Distance from Chitkul – 160 m
Built almost 5 centuries back as a homage to the goddess Chitkul Mathi who protects this little valley.
Reflecting traditional Kath-Kuni architecture, the temple is something that’s for sure to make you stop on your tracks and stare for a while.
Uniquely carved walnut wood weaved carefully with clothes and tufts of yak tail. It’s an exhibit that stands tall to tell tales on the exquisite craftsmanship of Chitkul.
Even if you aren’t here to seek blessings, you’d be intrigued by Devi’s travel stories all the way from Vrindavan to Tibet.
Distance from Chitkul – 12.8 km
This ancient trade route is one of the difficult trek routes connecting Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
It’s also the most rewarding rites of passage with an altitude of 17880 ft. paving the way to spectacles such as the Har ki Dun and Morinda Taal.
Adorned with canopies of walnut, chestnut, Chinar, and willow trees, nature’s beauty being exhibited in its best form.
It’d be a taxing trail starting from the villages to Har ki Dun. Through the trails, you’d be passing innumerable contrasting sights from the orchards to emerald forests to snow sprinkled pines and to a complete expanse of snow with grey boulders.
The ideal months for trekking would be May-June and September-October.
Distance from Chitkul – 27 km
Trekking through Sangla meadows is something that brings in a good share of travel enthusiasts to Chitkul. A scenic landscape enveloped by the snow-capped Himalayas and studded with contrasting shades of crimson and green apple orchards.
Also known as Sangla Kanda, this place shows the unfiltered essence of the valley.
An entire day would go by here easily, exploring the villages, crossing the glacial rivers, climbing to the panoramic view of the Kinner Kailash, and camping with the view.
Distance from Chitkul – 64 km
An exemplary in modern Buddhist architecture, the Brelengi Gompa located near Reckong Peo is a must-visit.
Built by the Mahabodhi society for performing their rituals of Kalachakra ceremony, the monastery is an interesting piece of architecture.
With wooden walls and roofs, it narrates stories about the treasured culture of Tibetan wood carving.
Just beside the monastery, you’d also stumble across the 10m tall Lord Buddha statue standing against the backdrop of the hills.
Distance from Chitkul – 25 km
A fortified structure that’s been enclosing Chitkul’s culture historically. Situated not farther away from Sangla valley, the Kamru Fort is home to several tourist attractions.
Donning a Kinnauri cap and the traditional Gachhi, you’d be welcomed to this beautiful fort.
Series of gates leading to a humble statue of Lord Buddha against the grandeur of the Himalayas, a Devi temple right in the heart of the fortress, and the vantage point offering a mesmerizing view of the streams flowing across the valleys and orchards.
All these sights await you in this wonderland of heritage and old wives’ tales.
Tibetan Wood Carving Centre
Distance from Chitkul – Approx 22 km
Located not far from the exotic Saffron Farms, is this exquisite wooden centre. The art of wood carving is something that is unique and treasured by the people of Chitkul.
It’s a must-visit place and definitely one of the interesting places around here.
Blending the Indian and Tibetan wood carving techniques, there’s a whole lot of people here keeping this beautiful art alive.
Apart from watching the intriguing techniques, you could also buy handcrafted souvenirs from here and take back home a piece of Chitkul with you.
Distance from Chitkul – 3.4 km
Quite similar to the Mathi temple in architectural style, this walnut wood carved temple is one of the main schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
Translating to “Oral Lineage”, the temple has been said to have taught students over decades dating back to the 11century.
The towering structure with splashes of warm colours will leave you starry-eyed and on entering the temple, you’d be in for more surprises. Abode of the Shakyamuni Buddha, it is also accounted for as the most sacred spot around Chitkul.
There are several interesting ornamental carvings as well that’d lead your path. One entire day would pass by here without you even realizing it.
Distance from Chitkul – 1.2 km
Presenting one hell of a challenge to the trekker within you is the trek to Charang Chitkul. Stretching for as long as a dozen days and 60 km, you need prior trekking experience in order to make it through this pass.
Undoubtedly one of the best passes for adventure enthusiasts, it shows the valley in its untouched and raw form.
Passing through intimidating boulders, treacherous pathways, and the accompanying thin air, you’ll be rewarded with the unfiltered view of the Kinner Kailash mountains and experience for a lifetime.
Endlessly making snow angels and snowball fights, playing cricket in the highest pitches of the world, or trekking to the peaks, be it anything, Charang Chitkul pass is the jack of all trades.
Distance from Chitkul – 600 m
After all the travelling to the last point in India, burn down your hunger at the Aakhri Dhaba. Like the name would’ve suggested already, it is the Last known Dhaba of India. Serving warm authentic food to your platter, this open spaced eatery can be found at an altitude of 3500 m.
Not only do you get to experience the scrumptious cuisine, but you can also get several boastful pictures clicked here.
With a signboard reading “Hindustan Ka Aakhri Dhaba”, pull off your best photogenic tricks and get some crazy and memorable photos clicked up.
- Carry shoes that provide a firm grip in case you’re going for a trek to Chitkul.
- An essential first aid kit and some sweets (candies and chocolates) would always come in handy.
- Wear warm clothes as the place can experience a really harsh cold.
- In case you’re travelling solo, pack only essentials and do not carry much baggage. It’d get difficult to climb the steep routes with it.
- For beginners, contact a trekking guide who’d be well versed with the routes and can also help with providing the camping facilities.