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Frequently Asked Questions about traveling to Spiti Valley 

We have put together some questions most travelers have while planning their trip to Spiti valley. If you do not find the answers you are looking for in the list then you can write to us directly at spiti@incrediblespiti.com and we will make sure to help you out. 

Travel Questions

How do I get to Spiti valley?

There are two routes to Spiti valley, from Manali and from Shimla.The Manali route is open from mid-June till end of October whereas the Shimla route is open all year round.

The distance between Manali and Kaza is around 220 kms. And takes approximately 9-10 hrs. to reach. The distance between Manali and Kaza is around 450 kms. And takes approximately 2 ½ days to reach Kaza.

You can take local Himachal Pradesh transport buses to Kaza or hire cabs from either Manali or Shimla.

What is the best season to travel to Spiti valley?

The best time to visit is between May and October as its warm and the temperature is bearable. The water lines are no longer frozen and the hotels are open for tourists. Places like Chandrataal and Manali are accessible from Rohtang Pass during this period.

What’s the weather like in Spiti valley?

The temperature in summer (June to September) can reach the mid 20 degrees C with a minimum of 9-10 degrees C. Places like Tabo, Chandrataal, Bataal and Hansa get very windy and chilly and the temperature can drop to 2-3 degrees C. The temperature in winter (December and January) can go down to -30 degrees C.

The annual rainfall is 6″. Since Spiti is a cold desert, there is no such thing as a rainy season.

Do I need a permit to enter Spiti valley?

There is no requirement of permits for Indians. Foreign citizens do need a permit if you are entering Spiti valley via Kinnaur. This can be procured either from Kaza, Shimla or Reckong Peo.

What are the available communication facilities in Spiti valley?

Phone facilities are available in Kaza. For people who want to use their mobile phone, only BSNL/MTNL works in some places in Spiti and some villages and places have no connectivity at all. It is advisable to purchase and activate your number before your trip.

But do take note. At times, the phone lines do not work due to lack of electricity.

 

Are there ATM’s in Spiti valley? Can I swipe my card at hotels?

There are State Bank of India and Kangra co-operative bank ATM’s in Kaza. But do not rely on them. Hotels or shops accept no credit or debit cards and you will need to pay in cash.

What are the items I need to carry on my trip to Spiti valley?
  • Carry a good warm jacket, pullovers and body warmers.
  • Sometimes there might be rain or snow and we advise you carry waterproof gear with you along with waterproof shoes and loads of socks.
  • Instead of carrying a stroller bag, we advise you to carry a spacious rucksack, as it is easier to lift and walk around with keeping your hands free.
  • A good sleeping bag, if you are camping is a must.
  • Always keep a roll of toilet paper with you along with sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses, torch and a water bottle. You need not worry about drinking water as its readily available. Running water in the streams comes directly from the mountains and can be consumed.
What kind of wildlife can I expect to see on my trip to Spiti valley?

You can find animals like the Ibex, Snow leopard, Red fox and the Himalayan wolf in the region on Spiti.

The Snow leopard usually prefers living on top of mountains, so catching a glimpse of one is a rarity.

Can I get some emergency contact numbers for the region?

You can get in touch with the hospital and police station in Kaza for any emergencies or any of the Incredible Spiti team.

  • Kaza Civil Hospital – 01900 222 218
  • Kaza Police Station – 01906 222 216
What to expect when I stay in Spiti valley?
  • Most hotels in Spiti do not keep any heaters as electricity is a bit of an issue in the region. You can rely on lots of blankets and local tandoors in common spaces to keep you warm.
  • All hotels have western style toilets except for homestays, which will have dry toilets.
  • You can go camping anywhere you’d like in Spiti except for protected areas and wetlands like Chandra Taal. If you are camping for the first time, we suggest you camp near a campsite or someone’s house. It also gets really windy in Spiti in the nights, so make sure you pick a spot that shields you from the winds.
What are dry toilets? And how does one use them?

A dry toilet is a toilet that operates without flush water, unlike a flush toilet. The best part about living in a homestay is the local dry toilet, which acts as a composting toilet that converts human waste in a completely eco-friendly manner into manure that can be used in the fields.

The toilet as such is divided into two sections, the first floor and the ground floor. The first floor has a hole in the middle and a mix of cow dung and ash in one corner is kept in a corner along with a shovel. After every use you are to throw a shovel full of mud and ash into the hole. In the ground floor the human feces is collected and allowed to decompose which then becomes manure.

Dry toilets have been used in Spiti since ancient times, as the water freezes during winter and with no direct water supply, which is the case even today, dry toilets were an eco-friendly way of disposing waste. 

Below is an image of a dry toilet, most commonly found in Spitian households and homestays.

 

What sort of transport is available in Spiti valley?

There are many ways to reach Spiti Valley.

  • Hire a taxi or bike

– You can hire a taxi from Manali or Shimla. A one way trip from Manali to Kaza and will take you 9-10 hours to reach and from Shimla to Kaza and will take you around 2 ½ days to reach.

– You can also chose to self-drive a car or bike and rent accordingly but you must be careful as the road to Spiti is quiet treacherous with rocky roads, water crossings and snow. The roads are rough from Rohtang till Kunzum all the way up to Losar village in Spiti.

– You can also share taxis between locations in Spiti Valley. You will find shared taxis at Kaza.

  • Travel by State Transport buses

There are two HRTC buses that run between Manali and Kaza every morning. The bus starts in Kullu to Kaza via Manali and it reaches Manali around 4.45 AM and leaves at 5.00 AM.

Please note:

  • There are no mechanics available between Manali and Kaza
  • Once in Kaza, you can also hire cycles if you want to go mountain biking
What can I expect when I’m living in a homestay? What facilities will I get?

A homestay is a sort of ‘home away from home’ where you get to live with a family for a couple of days and stay in their home, share meals and even help out with daily activities if you’d like. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in local culture.

The homestays in Spiti are very basic, the homes are made of mud and most of the families eat vegetarian food on a daily basis, as meat is hard to get in such a remote region. You will also find an eco friendly dry toilet in most homes. The family will do their best to make you feel at home and will provide you with the basic but delicious meals and sufficient bedding to keep you warm at night.

While staying with a family in a homestay, do remember to be respectful of their culture and traditions, do join them for meals, help out in the house if you can and don’t hesitate to mingle and make friends.

What kind of food can I expect to find in Spiti valley?
  • You will find local Tibetan food as well as north Indian food across Spiti valley. In most of the places you will find vegetarian food and meat can be found in winter as vegetables are difficult get.
  • In Tibetan food you will usually find momos and Thupka (a thick noodle soup), which is perfect for the extreme cold weather. Try some local Butter tea (a delicacy), which is not for everyone’s palette but should be tried at least once. You can also try some local home-brewed alcohol called chang and arkh, which are made from barely and are versions of beer and whisky.
  • Ginger & honey, mint and lemon teas can be found almost everywhere in the region.

Health Questions

What is the fitness level required to be able to travel to Spiti valley?

Spiti being a high altitude terrain we recommend people with Asthma or Blood Pressure issues check with their doctor before planning their trip. They should also carry appropriate medicines as most medical shops in Spiti have basic medicines and might not have the ones you need.

There is no such restriction otherwise but if you are physically fit you will be able to enjoy the trip much better.

What is AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness or Altitude sickness?

Acute mountain sickness can occur to any one at an altitude above 10,000 feet above sea level with symptoms like headache, disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, nausea, coughing, irregular breathing, breathlessness and lack of concentration. It is advisable to acclimatize well in these conditions.

The route from Shimla is a gradual ascent and helps you acclimatize, however, if you are coming from the Manali route, you will need to take a day’s rest in Manali to acclimatize before heading to Spiti.

What are the health precautions I can take while traveling in a high altitude region like Spiti valley?
  • The first thing to do is acclimatize properly. Once your reach Kaza, we suggest you take it easy the first day and rest up so that your body acclimatizes to the altitude. This is to avoid AMS or altitude sickness.
  • Keep your body adequately hydrated and avoid black tea or coffee or over hydration.
  • Avoid sleeping at high altitudes. Even if you travel to a high altitude place during the day make sure you come back to a lower altitude in the evening to sleep.
  • Avoid drinking, smoking or doing drugs as they decrease your respiratory capabilities.
  • Do not over exert and remember to keep your body covered and warm at all times.
  • Carry anti – AMS medicines with you and descend if you start showing signs of AMS.
Is it safe to travel with children at high altitudes?

Yes, it is completely safe to travel with children. Do carry any medicines that you feel the children might need, just in case.


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