Journey to the "Last village of India" - Chitkul

To the North of Sangla in Himachal Valley lies the tiny outpost of Chitkul. Situated at the height of 3450 meters, the village is located at a distance of 28 km from Sangla, about 600 kilometres from Delhi in the Kinnaur Valley which gives you the feeling of having travelled to the very ends of civilization. Beyond Chitkul lies a vast expanse of inhospitable mountain terrain and beyond that the forbidden tracts of Tibet.

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This is one of those long driving holidays to hills high up in the great Himalaya where the drive is constant, breath-taking scenic treat. If you are driving up from Delhi to Sangla in the Kinnaur region, it takes two days to get there.

The first night you halt at Shimla or  Narkanda perched precipitously high above the Sutlej valley. You can also plan to trek to Hatu Peak in Narkanda for some epic views. Next major stop in your trip is Rampur which is well connected to entire Kinnaur.

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The road – the Hindustan Tibet Highway – quickly ascends through the dusty and dry Sutlej Valley, which now is narrower and hair-raisingly steep. The base of the Dangle ascent is a small outpost called Karchham. The drive from Karchham, where the Baspa river drains into the Sutlej, has got to be one of the most heart stopping yet.

At Karchham, you leave the highway and take the road that climbs steeply above the Baspa, one of the most beautiful mountain rivers. Crystal clear blue-green water gushes over craggy rocks. Then suddenly, with out any warning, from precipitous ascents you are into the wide and open Sangla Valley and you believe you have stumbled into the heart of the Swiss countryside.

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Chitkul, on the banks of Baspa River, is the first village of the Baspa Valley and the last village on the old Hindustan-Tibet trade route. It is also the last point in India one can travel to without a permit. The intrepid and hardy Indo-Tibetan Border Police keeps a lonely vigil here. Chitkul falls on what used to be ancient trade route between India and Tibet.

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You can almost imagine the weather-beaten coral and even peals moving on this route. Traces of the old Tibetan connection can be seen in the facial features and jewellery that many locals have.

Things to see and do

Verdantly forested with deodar and the stately Chilgoza, all you can see is a belt of glorious green stretching before you. Orchards, primarily Apple are abundant here. In fact, the best 'Golden Delicious' apples come from this area

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The Sangla Valley is a delight for nature lovers; especially the stretch after Raksham and right up to Chitkul. The valley is extremely beautiful, on the left bank of the Baspa River are snow-clad mountains and on the right bank the whole terrain is full of apple orchards and wooden houses. The picturesque little hamlet of Chitkul with its tiny population is also well known for trout fishing.

* Perfect Himalayan Destination For Trekking

The Himalayan beauty that Chitkul Village is blessed with is incomparable with all the other destinations. With the backdrop of the Kinnar Kailash range the entire Sangla valley offers amazing 360 degree views. One can go around for long walks, short as well as long treks and overnight camps in and around the area.Chitkul is start point for Lamkhaga pass trek and Borasu pass trek. Nagasthi ITBP post is 4km and Ranikanda meadows is 10km trek from Chitkul. Walk up to Nagasthi; the last Indian outpost on the border.

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* Fishing

If you’re an enthusiastic angler, then Chitkul is where you want to be. The swirling current of the Baspa is home to both the Rainbow and Brown trout. Remember to 'stalk' your fish, quietly creeping up to your vantage point as the Baspa waters being very clear,the trout will see you and be gone before you know it.

* Mathi Temple

Beautiful Mathi temple situated in the middle of the village is about 500 years old.Famously known for its Art and Architecture.

* Adventure Sports

Chitkul being in mountains is a great place for off-road riding. Places where would love Mountain-biking. Along with many other sports like Bouldering, climbing, slackling etc.

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How to Reach Chitkul

ROUTE 1) 1st Half: Delhi – Chandigarh. A roadways bus gets you there in 4-5 hours. The ticket cost is somewhere between INR 400-600. It’s safe and good road conditions don't make the ride too harsh.

Second Half: Chandigarh-Reckong peo- Chitkul: A roadways bus ( HRTC or Redbus ) takes you to Reckong peo in 10-11 hours depending on the conditions of the road and if it snowed or not. The village is situated 60 km away from Reckong Peo as the last inhabited village at the Old Indian-Tibetan Trade Route. Reckong Peo is well-connected to all the major cities of Himachal Pradesh with public buses which frequently run in the daytime. From there you take a transit bus directly to Chitkul within 3hours.

ROUTE 2) 1st Half : Delhi - Shimla - Sangla : A roadways bus gets you to Shimla from Delhi in 7.30 hrs (350 kms). Stay the night in Shimla/Narkanda. Then board the afternoon or early morning bus to Sangla and reach there in another in another 7 hours and enjoy the hills the valleys on your way.

2nd Half : Sangla to Chitkul via Rakcham : Its take almost 2 hrs to reach Chitkul from Sangla if you are coming by roadways bus, which is the easiest and you can make a lot of memories on the way.

Where to eat ?

There are a few teashops and small street side sitting Dhabas in the main market, which dish up the usual fare. The Tibetan influence is very apparent, momos and thukpa(noodle soup) can make a great meal. The lucky might even find a bowl of Chinese-style soup. Remember you are travelling to a remote area, so carry more than just basic munchies or long lasting packed foods.

Shop

Brightly coloured Kinnaur shawals and woolen socks with their distinctive weave make lovely gifts to carry back. Also available is local tweed that can be fashioned into smart jacket once you're back to the cities. Look out for the intricate silver jewellery embedded with the areas signature turquoise, coral and the some-what rare Tibetan pearls.

And of course, the famous 'Golden Delicious' apples and tasty peaches are definitely cheaper here than in the plains. Walnuts , spices , almonds and saffron are also what you can shop here.

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Chitkul being a remote area and away from civilization is satisfied with what it has. Internet is flooded with myriad travel stories and images about this tribal village. But deeper we dive into the infinite world of internet in order to know more about the village, lesser aware we feel.

Tips for backpackers:

  1. Make sure you carry enough cash as there are no ATMs
  2. Carry a FirstAid Kit as nearest hospital is in Sangla
  3. There is no phone network in Chitkul except for BSNL

We welcome you to Zostel Chitkul : Last Hostel of India

Book your stay by visiting zostel.com/zostel/chitkul

We await your arrival :)

Images by Ankit Gupta, Kaiho and Mr Naresh Arora

Crafted By, Anushka Arora


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