A backpacker’s guide to exploring Lahaul with Zostel Sissu

By now, you must have heard a word or two about Lahaul on the internet. The opening of Atal Tunnel has recently made this offbeat, distant region of Himachal Pradesh accessible, for the delight of locals and travellers alike.

Lahaul comes as a breath of fresh air for those of us who can't get enough of exploring the mountains. The region brings with it, its own set of folklore, tradition and culture, culinary indulgences, and of course, magnificent Himalayan landscapes. We promise you, Lahaul is different from Ladakh, Spiti, and any other upper Himalayan region you've explored so far.

Sissu Lake in Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh

And now, we’re on our way to making Lahaul all the more open, accessible, and exploreworthy for you. After our debut in Rashil, a quaint hamlet in Pattan Valley of Lahaul with Zostel Home Rashil, we have now come up with our FIRST hostel in Lahaul, Zostel Sissu.

In this guide, we’re helping you make the most of Lahaul through Sissu, a rustic little town known so far only for the majestic Sissu Waterfall. Of course, there's more to this place.

About Sissu

Located right at the beginning of Lahaul, only 40 km from Manali on the Manali-Leh highway, Sissu works as a gateway to the three famous regions of the Indian Himalayas- Ladakh, Spiti, and Lahaul. This tiny Himalayan hamlet poses with magnificent glaciers all around, and gives travellers a glimpse of the traditional Lahauli lifestyle through everyday activities. In this region, you can look forward to hiking, camping, trekking, stargazing, and of course, a lot of day trips.

Before we dive into all of that, here’s some information to get you started.

Weather in Sissu and most of Lahaul

Like a handful of other Himalayan regions, the experience of Lahaul changes with every season.

Springtime (mid-March to July) is full of sunshine, hustling in cauliflower and potato fields, and cheerful days. Autumn (August to November), on the other hand, invites in snow along with bright yellow Poplars, with the temperature ranging between 32°C and 13°C. As winter takes over, so does heavy snowfall. Most of Lahaul becomes inaccessible (although Sissu is open most of the year due to its proximity to the Atal Tunnel). During peak winter weeks, the temperature goes lower than -15°C.

Sissu, Lahaul during autumn in October

Network connectivity in Lahaul

BSNL, Airtel and Jio are the only reliable networks in Lahaul (no, Vodaphone does NOT work) with 25 - 35 Mbps mobile data speed throughout the year. Wi-Fi is not all that common in this region as of yet.

Exploring Lahaul while being a digital nomad is now so much easier. Have you checked out Zostel Sissu yet?

Things to do in Sissu, Lahaul

Explore villages

The entire riverside belt of Lahaul is decorated with rustic little villages. While some of these hamlets treat you to spectacular sunset views, others invite you into rustic village scenes, access to the riverside, an insight into farming and lifestyle, and more.

Go hiking and camping

The most popular of the lot is an easy 1-hour hike from Zostel Sissu to the Sissu Waterfall, where the trail takes you all the way to the base of the falls. Remember, going close to the Sissu waterfall and activities such as diving are not permitted, owing to religious reasons. Yet another hiking adventure you can easily accommodate in a day include the Shitidhar glacier hike.

Sissu Waterfall in Lahaul, near Manali, Himachal Pradesh

If you enjoy camping in summer, our folks at Zostel Sissu will help you arrange or share important information, contacts, and more as needed.

Planning a holiday? Check out Zostel Sissu!

Take up treks

A day hike opposite Sissu village takes you to Ghepan lake, where travellers usually camp the night before making their way back to Sissu. Other treks, short and long, include the Neelkanth Mahadev trek and the Kugti Pass trek that takes you towards Chamba.

If you’re in for an advanced trekking experience, take the trail from Miyar valley to Zanskar via Kang La. Other treks worth mentioning are Kesar Yanchu and Manerang.

Visit the monasteries of Lahaul

Lahaul offers a mix of cultures, posing a curious delight for travellers. The monasteries of Othang, Tayul, Guru Ghantaal, and Kardang are a few revered ones that you can pay a visit to.

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Go on day trips

From the most popular lake of Spiti valley to the many charming villages of Lahaul and the mighty passes of Zanskar, a day trip from Sissu can take you around absolutely stunning places.

  • Drive down Jispa, exploring the Manali-Leh highway’s rugged mountainscape on the way. On this 52 km stretch from Sissu fall Keylong, Khangsar, and Tayul Gompa, where you can make stops to explore.
  • Explore the wonders of Pattan valley on a long drive to the holy destinations of Udaipur and Trilokinath. On the way, you can also explore quaint little villages such as Rashil and Jobrang.
  • If you like exploring rustic villages, you can check the hamlets of Gondhla, Aukhtang, and Lindoor off your bucket list. While Gondhla is known for its monastery and sublime riverside views, Aukhtang impresses you with a bird-eye view of the great glaciers of Lahaul.

Explore the lakes of Lahaul and Spiti

Lahaul, the land of glaciers, is also home to many stunning and renowned lakes. From Sissu towards Ladakh falls the Suraj Taal, between Manali and Lahaul is the Ghepan lake, and towards Kaza are the Chandra and Vishnu Taal.

Indulge in stargazing and astrophotography

The Lahaul region is one of the finest places in the Himalayas to indulge in stargazing and spotting the Milky Way. If you are an astronomy enthusiast, carry your telescope and gear for a treat.

Milky way as seen in Sissu, Lahaul

Adventure activities in Lahaul and Sissu

In a land where scenic routes are a staple, it is easy to expect a certain set of adventures.

Bike expeditions

During summer, bikers from across the country take on daring road adventures. Some of the popular routes include:

  • Manali - Sissu - Chandra taal - Spiti - Chitkul - Shimla 
    Sissu - Jispa - Zanskar 
    Sissu - Keylong - Leh - Pangong -Tso Moriri/Srinagar

Cycling and two-wheeler riding

Downhill cycling is an absolute treat in the terrain that Lahaul hosts. Another great option to explore the valley in a slightly more exciting way is by renting a two-wheeler and hitting the road. A couple of rental options are available near Zostel Sissu, or you can rent a vehicle from Manali on your way to Sissu.

Snow adventures

Lahaulis are now bracing for hosting snow adventures such as snowboarding, skiing, ice skating, and more. While it may take a few months to have these activities in order for travellers to enjoy, you can still watch locals enjoying these activities if you make it in winter.

How to reach Zostel Sissu in Lahaul

Zostel Sissu, backpacking hostel in Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh

During summer

By Bus: Reach Manali from Delhi or Chandigarh. At the Manali bus stand, take a bus to Keylong. After crossing Atal Tunnel, take a drop at Sissu PWD Resthouse. Zostel is right opposite to it.

By Train: The nearest railway station is Chandigarh, 351 km from Sissu. Take a bus from Manali to Delhi and follow the directions stated above. Alternately, you can take a direct cab from Chandigarh to Manali/Sissu.

By Air: The nearest airport is in Bhuntar, 90 km away. A direct taxi from Bhuntar airport to Zostel Sissu would cost approximately INR 5000.

For further detailed directions, please call the property prior to your arrival.

During winter

During the winter months, Sissu may not be accessible via local transport or private non-4x4 vehicle under extreme snow conditions. In such weather, we do not recommend travellers drive down to the hostel and strongly recommend that they hire a 4x4 vehicle either from Manali or by contacting the property prior to their arrival.

Moreover, please keep your booking confirmation at Zostel Sissu handy while making the journey from Manali to Sissu.

About Zostel Sissu

Overlooking the mighty glaciers of Himachal Pradesh, Zostel Sissu brings a matchless adventure in the unexplored land of glaciers. A vast playground invites you in, making way for a cosy common room equipped with tandoor to keep you warm. The dorms and private rooms offer ample space for you to work and unwind, all the while offering you a glimpse of the highlands, glaciers, and the stunning Sissu Waterfall.

Private room in Zostel Sissu, backpacking hostel in Lahaul Dorm room in Zostel Sissu, backpacking hostel in Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh

Check out Zostel Sissu and explore more details to plan your escape.

Credits: All pictures in this blog are by the very talented @ankitguptaphotography 💛

Writer, Pranavi Chhikniwala.


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