Road Trip to Spiti - Part 1: From Shimla to Kinnaur

"I thought of seeing houses in patches as we drive down to Spiti but it's other way around," said my wife in surprise after seeing the congested and busy Himalayan road. We were embarking on a road trip to Spiti, en route Shimla, Kalpa, and Dhankar, with high hopes of witnessing remote villages scattered in the rugged terrain.

Our journey began in the picturesque city of Shimla, renowned for its colonial architecture and captivating views. The roads, as usual, were a testament to the Border Roads Organisation’s (BRO) engineering marvels. It was project Himank in Ladakh & Kashmir and project Deepak in Himachal. And their highway signboards with witty taglines are unique and attractive.

I am curvaceous. Be slow

If you are married, divorce speed

After whisky, driving risky

We manoeuvred our way through dense thickets of coniferous forest, where deodar, pine, and oak trees dominated the landscape. With leaves shaped like needles, they resembled a dense bush from afar and were perfectly suited to withstand the harsh cold of the Himalayan winters. In a few pockets, we have also seen Eucalyptus trees. Although its invasive in nature, its distinct scent mesmerized us briefly as we continued our journey.  

Even though I was seeing Deodar trees for the first time, thanks to Ruskin Bond's tales, it felt oddly familiar. In his stories set in the Himalayas, Deodar trees play an indispensable role. They are more than just trees; they are living characters in his narratives. Ruskin Bond's words have painted vivid pictures of these majestic trees.

It might be the way he describes the sound of their branches on a windy day, a haunting "hoo-hoo-hoo," as he beautifully portrays in his story Mountains in my Blood. That eerie yet compulsive sound seemed to echo through the woods as we journeyed deeper into the Himalayas, making me feel as though I had been here before.

Or it could be the sense of companionship he evokes when talking about the Deodars. In his book Roads to Mussoorie, he wrote, "The deodar enjoys the company of its own kind: Where one deodar grows, there will be others." As we passed row after row of these grand trees, it was evident that they indeed preferred each other's company. Their dense presence created a unique ambiance, one that felt comforting and inviting.

As we left Shimla behind, the road led us to the Kinnaur Gate, a notable spot known for its rock-cut path. Here, the landscape transformed dramatically. The road appeared to have been skillfully carved along the corner of the mountain. As we navigated its twists and turns, the breath-taking views of these rocky pathways left us in awe. But that’s not all. It caused us a touch of nausea as well, as if the mountains were playfully challenging our stomachs to a dance-off.

Kinnaur Gate, a notable spot known for its rock-cut path

Skillfully carved road of Himalayas. Photo Credit - Suganya 

The beautiful part of this drive was the Sutlej river that accompanied us as we carefully drove down these meandering roads. Although the water in these river was not as clear as the Beas river we had seen in Kullu but their current maintained the same swift pace. 

Majestic Sutlej river. Photo Credit - Suganya

After an 8-hour journey, we finally arrived at Rekong Peo, located at an altitude of 7500 ft. above sea level. During the drive, our driver shared intriguing details about Kinnaur Kailash, capturing our interest. He pointed to one of the ice-capped peaks and explained that it harbored a rock formation resembling a lingam, which people workship as Lord Shiva. To reach this site, adventurers get on a challenging trek through the Kinnaur region. What made it even more exciting was that the rock or a Kinnaur Kailash could be clearly seen from the place we are going to stay in Kalpa.

After a brief stop in Rekong Peo, we continued our journey towards Kalpa, situated at a lofty altitude of 9700 ft. above sea level. As darkness descended, we spotted a scattering of tiny lights atop the mountains. Our driver informed us that these were trekkers camping on their way to visit Kinnaur Kailash.

We arrived in Kalpa after going through multiple hairpin bends and settled into our hotel room. The room welcomed us with its cozy and spacious interior. However, the true highlight was the generous balcony attached to our room, holding the promise of a possible glimpse of Kinnaur Kailash the next morning. Guide from Just Wravel had informed us that around 5 to 6 am, the skies would be clear, devoid of clouds, offering a perfect opportunity to catch a view. We were all set to witness the beautiful sight at dawn. As we went to bed, we realised that the road had become less crowded devoid of people and even trees. The houses appeared in patches, just as my wife had initially envisioned.

Road Trip to Spiti - Part 1: From Shimla to Kinnaur Road Trip to Spiti - Part 1: From Shimla to Kinnaur Reviewed by Gowthama Rajavelu on 22:50 Rating: 5


  1. Curious to read a travelogue that will capture nature through vivid descriptions. Great start invoking Ruskin Bond and his deodars.

  2. Such a nice feel ...! It's tempting me to go there!

  3. Thanks for taking the readers through Spiti valley.😍
    It is both the destiny and journey that matters.

    1. Thanks Soundar for the comments. Yes it's one of a kind experience and lot more to come.

  4. Thank you for transportating to the Himalayan roads. Consider giving hint about next part of the blog series at the end. :)

    1. Thanks Puvi for that. I'll keep that in mind in the next post.

  5. You made my stomach dance off with the rocky edges 😅 such a nice feel to read your vivid experience Gowtham ♥️ Best wishes for the next trip!!

  6. It's brings a great memories of my childhood days.thanks for your wonderful narrative words.its very informative.


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