So, you have decided to travel to a land of different colors in each season. Do you want to know how it feels to stand still in time? Want to visit a place which looks amazing and beautiful but with lot of challenges? In search of a terrain that will create memories for your lifetime? Then the answer to all these questions are one that is “SPITI VALLEY”. Your mind will blow up when you start your journey from lush green and reach barren lands of cold desert.
Earlier till 90’s this area was totally out of bound for travellers, however, now the situation is altogether different. Every year the number of tourist is growing and visitors love to travel this piece of heaven called “Spiti Valley”. Generally, the peak time period to visit this place are the months of summer but contrary to this, one can visit at anytime time throughout the year. Spiti which is also called “The Middle Land” is open for visitors to travel even in winters. In this article, we will discuss about the details how to plan white Spiti? How to plan road trip to Spiti in Winters?
The very first thing while planning a bike trip to Spiti in winters or a road trip to White Spiti, wherever you go in any part of the Spiti, you won’t keep yourself away from adventure. Because of the bad roads and off-road terrain in entire Spiti region. Some of the other reasons like no good mobile connectivity, steep roads, water crossings, slush, acute mountain sickness and no traffic at all make this journey more challenging and adventures. Now keep this thing in your mind these factors are related to summer season. On the other hand if you plan this trip in winters, then this adventure can be tagged as “crazy”. There are many things and lot of preparation is required to attempt White Spiti in winters. You have to always keep yourself ready for worst of the worst situation.
Winter Spiti or White Spiti requires lot of preparations, patience and planning. In other words its like “Plan your Ride and Ride your Plan”. From this point we are going to bifurcate the entire journey to White Spiti into three parts.
- How to prepare for a road trip to White Spiti Valley in Winters?
- How to Plan a Spiti Valley In Winters Journey?
- How to plan your accommodation in White Spiti Valley In Winters?
1 – How to prepare for a road trip to White Spiti Valley in Winters?
Let’s start discussing about each and every thing you will be require for the preparation of White Spiti.
If you ask us what is White Spiti or Winter Spiti, our answer is “Adventure”. There is no other word which can describe a ride to spiti in winters. Don’t even think this trip is like your weekend gateway with friends or some family vacation trip. It is not your regular trip, this is going to be a hardcore adventure trip from start until the end. So, you have to prepare accordingly and prepare this entire trip from this perspective only. If adventure is not your piece of cake, then forget about doing spiti in winters and wait for summer season. Believe us, life comes to a halt here when fresh snowfall starts while you are on a road. Hotels close, roads close due to snow, no public or private transports would be there. It’s like everything get freeze.
Winter Spiti Route:
As per the above details and warnings related to tough adventure, it’s time to work out itinerary. Not to forget the entire circuit of Spiti in winters is not possible to complete. As the two major passes “Kunzum Pass” and “Rohtang Pass” remain closed in winters. One cannot start the journey from Shimla and complete it in Manali. Road from Manali to Kaza remains closed in winters from November to May. So, the only option to visit Spiti in Winters which start from Shimla to Kaza keep open throughout the year. You can start your journey from Shimla and reach Kaza and return back from the same route.
The total distance of Kaza from Shimla is 451 KM (280 Miles). In Summer, you can reach Kaza from Shimla like in 2 days if you drive without taking much breaks. And if you want to see the beauty at its peak and want to enjoy the landscape with photography, then you need around 3 days to reach Kaza from Shimla. So basically, 3 days to reach kaza, 3 days to come back and 1 day to stay in Kaza. Total 7 days of trip from Shimla to Shimla. Consider adding 2 more days from your home town to Shimla and going back. As per complete maths it’s like 9 days of total journey when the road is open till Kaza. Remember the above days calculation only applies in Summer.
Let’s talk about the trip to “Winter Spiti” or “White Spiti”. The condition in winters changes like 360 degree from summer time. BRO keeps the road from Shimla to Kaza open for all 12 months, however, a fresh snowfall can block the way temporarily for a day or two as well. In fact sometime this blockage remains there for weeks as well. Consider such situation while travelling to spiti in winters. Such situation might add up more time in your planned days. To be honest, it’s not wrong to say, if you are planning for white spiti then consider it like 10 to 15 days of trip. Higher chances of being stranded in some isolated area or in some village for days till the time BRO clear up the road block. Always consider these parameters in your itinerary or when your are planning for white spiti.
Team Members in Group:
After planning the time required for this circuit, the next most important thing is to consider people travelling with you. So basically, if you are travelling in a team then you need to make sure they are also aware about what can come in front of us anytime. Generally, when the trip is in planning stage people join just like that for a trip, however, some of them have no idea at all when they are stepping into. And later on while on a trip they start curse and crib, which make things more hard to solve. If you are going for winter spiti valley on bike, then most probably you must be aware about the skills of your fellow riders. With snow clad mountains and even black ice on roads might lead to disaster.
Clothing or Gear for Bike:
Temperature in Winter Spiti even day time goes down to subzero. To manage such condition, you should plan your clothing in layers. Carry woolen clothes, wind proof jackets, thermal liners and your warmest clothes. Keep monkey cap and good warm gloves with you. Not to forget your shoes must be waterproof, as you have to walk frequently in snow. Bikers must keep themselves packed with riding gear like riding jacket with rain liner and warm liner. With woolen shirt and thermals as well. Riding Pants, Warm Riding Gloves and good quality helmet with anti-fog wind glass. Keep some first-aid things like some medicines for headache, fever, band-aid, lip balm, cold cream and some spray with pain killers. Most important and best thing is to wear anything but should be in layers.
Keep enough Cash:
As we were discussing above, the chances are high to get stuck at any place enroute for hours or days. No doubt, ATM in Spiti Valley in Winters for sure will be out of order. As there is no internet or mobile connectivity and the valley remains completely cut off, so there will be no working ATM easily available. So, its better to keep enough cash to deal with the situations accordingly. Don’t rely on your plastic cards at all when visiting White Spiti.
2 – How to Plan a Spiti Valley In Winters Journey?
Following are the few important tips for planning a ride for White Spiti in Winters.
The reason we called it “White Spiti” is because there will be lots of snow in Spiti in winters. A proper preparation is required for driving on the roads in White Spiti. If you have never drive in snow before, then Spiti is not the place at all to attempt it for the first time in snow. It’s better to have someone else do the driving who has some experience of driving in snow. If travelling in the months of January or February, keep snow chain for tires to drive in snow. Snow chain can be put around the tires for the grip to drive in snow for additional benefit.
On the other hand best way to drive in snow is to start your journey in sunlight. Because early morning there would be lot of black ice, which is hard to see while you are driving. Avoid sudden breaks in snow and specially when you encounter black ice on the road. Put your vehicle in low gears and drive slow, so with the help of engine braking you can easily pass the tough patches. Keep the air pressure low in tires for extra grip and added traction on snow.
After February, in the months of March and April, you will see lot of slush to drive through. Normally, in these months snow start to melt and terrain is full of slush and water streams.
Don’t expect public transport or shared taxis in Spiti in Winters. Would like to strongly advise, not to plan your white spiti trip on the basis of public transport. Unless, you plan your trip for weeks to wait for mode of travel to come. The bus services from Shimla to Reckong Peo is still possible however, from Reckong Peo to Kaza cancel alot. And can stop anywhere in between if the road is not safe enough for a bus to pass by. Or sometime you have to board another bus from other side of blocked road by walking that point.
Such a cold environment will force you to switch ON your car heater to maximum. However, its better to avoid car heating as much possible as you can. Because heating in such a closed area of car on such a high altitude can lead you to hit with Acute Mountain Sickness. And I am sure AMS is the last ever thing you want in your entire journey. On the other hand such a warm atmosphere in car will make you drowsy while driving, which is dangerous while driving.
Chances are very much lesser in winter spiti to find even a cup of tea enroute. Keep some nuts, chocolates and a flask for tea if you can. Load you car or saddle bags with as much as processed food as you can. Whenever you get a chance to see any shop or restaurant just simply fill as much as you can. Trust me a cup of tea from your flask in such a cold weather is a life saving thing.
3 – How to plan your accommodation in White Spiti Valley In Winters?
After reaching safely to Kaza, below are the details how one can plan their stay in Spiti Valley.
The next part of your trip is your “stay” in white Spiti in winters. Normally, most of the hotels are closed in winters in Spiti. Possible stay options available in entire Spiti region is the Home Stay in Spiti. Mostly, you have to plan your stay either as a paying guest or lucky to find some guest house enroute. To be on a safer side, it’s better to plan your accommodation in Spiti well in advance. In fact, in your entire journey, you would be staying with the locals in their homes and eating their home food, which is very basic. Ask in Monasteries for availability of room if they have any if you can stay.
Better to select your accommodation as a paying guest. Plan accordingly well in advance, so your host can plan your stay accordingly.
Another thing is to keep your expectations low. Try to settle for whatever option first come in front of you instead of searching some fancy hotels. Don’t even think of getting some fancy meal. Idea is to settle in a comfortable and warm room with normal food. Because, you won’t be able to find luxury in winter Spiti journey.
Don’t think with basic amenities and food , the price for such services would be lower. The resources are very much limited in winter Spiti, so the cost of everything goes up in Spiti during winters. Do not attempt to negotiate your cost to stay with locals, as the cost of getting a bucket of hot water is not less than rocket science in White Spiti. Cost of wood to keep your room warm, to get a hot water bucket and to cook food with low resources raises the cost of your stay.
As the temperature in entire Spiti region remains below 0 degree, which means water freezes all around. As a result, the water in pipeline even gets freeze. Don’t expect for running water in pipe lines in entire Spiti in winters. People living here get the water from hand pump and fill their bucket to keep water arrangement at their home. Remember and accept that you have to stay and keep your journey without taking showers for some days. You might get hot water in bucket, so you can brush your teethes and wash your face and hands. This is the same water they use for cooking and for drinking, just in case if this concerns you it’s better to keep mineral water bottle with you.
On the other hand if you want to take a bath; then go to nearby hand pump and fill a water bucket and ask your host to warm it up for you. However, this practise is not easy either for you and for your host, as the boiling water requires to burn some wood which also comes with some cost. In simple words again keep your expectations lower and think twice before using water in Spiti in winters.
Now this is the toughest part. As there will be no water all around even not in pipelines, you will be doing your daily morning job in dry pits. You must be thinking what is dry pit all about. Basically, it’s a temporary arrangement for toilets with a hole on a covered pit. Where you squat down and do your daily morning thing. And if this concerns you then get ready to go out in -25 degree of temperature and fill a bucket of water to get through the nature call.
Not only you are struggling with cold weather but your car or bike also struggle the same weather. Fuel also freezes in such a high cold temperature overnight even in hosepipes. Specially diesel vehicle’s suffer with this issue a lot in winter spiti. Well, to avoid such problem, you have to wake up at night like every 2-3 hours. Start your vehicle for about 10 to 15 minutes and switch off and sleep.
Diesel engine vehicles gets much prone to this fuel freezing issue in winters from petrol cars. All the SUV’s and 4wd cars comes in diesel engine and get impacted with this problem. Battery of vehicles even die quickly. Try not to park your vehicle in open and if possible cover the car engine with some blanket. Get the service done prior to start of your journey and buy a fuel-line antifreeze. Use engine oil and coolant of winter grade and do not pour water in coolant as well. Other ways to avoid this issue is to keep your fuel tank full and keep your battery charge to max.
You can easily buy fuel supplement in market to avoid diesel from freezing. Such anti-gel help drops the freezing point of diesel and most probably less chances of diesel freezing. Application of such anti-gel fuel supplement is easy to use. Just put some drop of this supplement in fuel tank and you are good to go.
Get your car check-up and service properly before the trip. You won’t be able to find Mechanic in winter spiti valley. You might find some car mechanics in Kaza but that even for small issues, not for some major breakdown. Ensure your spare tires must be in good condition, keep towing rope and keep some bungee ropes.
Spiti Valley is one of the least populated place in our country. Some of the basic things still missing in this region even as on today’s world. In fact situation gets even worst in spiti in winters. Spiti in winters simply means there would be no electricity, no phone connectivity, no running water and very basic food options. In such a cold weather batteries any type dies real quick, and you have to keep them warm. On the other hand keep all of your gadgets like cell phone, camera, power banks etc under deep inside in your luggage or wrap them in some blanket. Remember if the battery goes down, then most probably you won’t be able to charge it easily. In winters most of the hotel and restaurants are closed, so don’t expect any luxury and fancy food. Keep yourself ready for basic food all the time.
Sightseeing in Kaza:
In Winters Spiti, roads to the villages near to Kaza remains closed throughout the winter season in Spiti. Your best way to visit Kibber, Komik, Langza, Gite, Hikkim and other places are by trek only. For visitors this is not a good idea to trek and go to such places, still if you want to visit then make sure your stay in any of these villages. Because trekking to these places and coming back to kaza in a same day is not possible. Moreover, its better to go along with some local guide to help you and guide in worst condition.
Visit to ChanderTal is not possible in winters, until and unless you decide to trek from Losar. Beyond Losar, the Kunzum Pass remain closed in winters. No point planning anything post Kaza in winter spiti. You have to in any case come back from Shimla only.
Self Camping in Spiti in Winters is not less than someone on suicidal mission. One must stay under the roof, with warm atmosphere if possible with proper safety of a home stay or guest house. In fact do not even carry your own camp and sleeping bag on this trip.
While planning your trip to spiti in winters, one should keep all basic first-aid kit and OTC medicines. As the medical assistance in white spiti is really toughs to find in emergency. So medicines for headache, stomach upset, vomit, fever and acidity should be handy with you. If you are suffering with some medical condition which might get serious, then it’s better to stay away from winter spiti. There is no medical facility available enroute in entire spiti region except Kaza. Just in case some medical attention is required and roads get blocked due to snow, then it’s impossible for someone to reach safe place on time.
Well, if you are stuck in worst conditions like road block for several days due to snowfall, do not panic. Local villagers are use to with such scenarios and they will make sure and help you not to die. For sure they will help you keep safe as much as possible under worst to worst condition. Still if the situation gets even more bad, then government generally air lift visitors and locals from such areas. Don’t worry you can leave your vehicle to locals and come out from that place first. You can take your vehicle back whenever you want after road opening.
Keep lip balm, cold cream with you to make sure your skin doesn’t get impacted with the cold weather. Not to touch any metal and even your own body when your hands are wet. Avoid such things to happen else wet hands on metal in cold weather would feel like getting glued to it. And If you try to pull it back, chances are your skin patch will come off. Still if you get into such trap, don’t panic and stay calm. Ask someone to get some hot water and pour on your hand, to take off your hand from this cold contact.
Keep yourself warm:
We people are not use to with such a harsh cold temperature. Keep yourself protected and warm from cold weather. If you want to go out, then keep yourself covered with several layer of warm clothing with covering your head as well. Good quality water proof shoes and warm gloves is must to wear while going out. Rub your hands and feet if you feel cold and run a bit if your entire body starts feeling cold. In fact best is to avoid yourself going out just for fun. Or keep yourself protected and covered with good warm clothing.
Keep your family well informed:
Keep your family well informed about your itinerary and your schedule. As there would be no connectivity, your phone might be out of connectivity for few to several days. Let your family know in advance about the complete scenarios and situations can come in front while travelling spiti in winters. Don’t forget at all to call them whenever you get connectivity. So, your family would be well informed about your last whereabouts if something goes wrong.
Travel Wizards, into planning and execution of White Spiti Valley in Winter trips by road. If you have any question or suggestions, you can comment below and we will be glad to answer. You can even call or whatsapp us at 7290929090 to discuss about trip. Our expert road captains and travel expert help you plan your trip to spiti in winters.