Chitkul is an offbeat village, in the Kinnaur Valley region of Himachal Pradesh state. At an average elevation of 3,455 mts, Chitkul is the last inhabited village at the northern side of the Indo-Tibet border. From here the border is just 90 km away.
The road distance to reach Chitkul from New Delhi is around 550 kms and is some 200 kms from the capital city of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla. It takes a 6 hours of drive from Shimla to reach Chitkul via Karcham and Sangla. At Karcham, you will get to see the confluence of two mighty rivers of the Lower Himalyan region i.e River Sutlej and River Baspa. While up ahead from Karcham the road ahead bifurcates away from the main highway – NH 22, taking a right turn and then going straight towards Chitkul.
Scenic Beauty all around
Road conditions throughout the NH 22 till Karcham, is good except for a few rough patches, otherwise it mostly well tarred and regularly maintained by the Border Road Organisation or BRO. The road from Karcham to Sangla and till Chitkul are landslide prone areas where it may cause a concern or two while travelling in the months of late August and early September. here the weather changes with a whim. Even during the peak months of summers, a sudden drop in temperature may trigger a winter like conditions. This makes the road track muddy, slippery and challenging to get through. So caution should be taken.
Being close to the snow line Chitkul is surrounded by an array of meticulously lined snow capped mountains all around. And after driving pat, down the twisty and curvy roads of the mountain highway, reaching Chitkul will definitely give you a dope, that will surely take off all of your travel fatigues.
Chitkul is absolutely charming, and there is no doubt on that. But apar from its natural bestowed beauty it is also known for it long history. In the ancient mythology, the early dwellers of Chitkul were known as Kinnaras which means the cross between the Gods and Humans. An old temple, Mathi Devi Temple stands testimony to the early customs and the way of life for the people of Chitkul. Dedicated to the Goddess Mathi, Mathi Devi temple is believed to be more than 500 years old. Made mostly of stones and wood, the temple’s wood carving work showcases the finesse of its creator, deeply exemplifying the unique Kinnauri style of architecture, of the region.
Mathi Devi Temple
Temple’s extrinsic wood carving work
There is a very limited cell phone coverage in and around Chitkul and there are no ATM, yet and no market either. Though it has a few couple of shops that runs, mostly erratically and sells very basic day to day necessities items, it’s a rare sight in most of the months. So it’s advisable to carry all necessary food and misc items that may be needed while on the trip here.
Chitkul serves as the start point for some of the most challenging and interesting mountain treks namely Lamkhaga pass trek and Borasu pass trek. So it get to see a constant steady incoming flow of trekkers during it’s sunny days. Now coming to food, the village has a limited eating options. With handful of dhabbas and some make-shift restaurants mostly serving vegeterian food namely white rice, rajma dal, Momos and noodles, you may get heavily disappointed if you have a non-Vegeterian fooding habits. But sometimes it’s ok to forget all the luxury and the fooding habits, in these mountains. As you might find, the same maggi, boiled with the pure Himalayan water, tasting much better, than the maggi made at home. After-all It’s the journey that matters 🙂 .
The cliche pic
Sitting around the old town, sipping tea with the slow rustling sound of the pine tree forest and the distant sight of river Baspa roaring up, twining and then meandering round the corners of the mountains would definitely make you realize “Mountains have a strange way of revealing themselves”. So peaceful, scenic and unfathomable, beyond words the beauty of the place will make you just sit there and spend time thoughtlessly looking towards the deep horizon.
Congrats !! You have now been charmed by the sheer beauty of the Chitkul.
The calm evening scene at Chitkul
Best Time to Visit Chitkul
Best time to visit Chitkul is between the months of June to September. The roads mostly closes during the winters months, owing to the heavy snowfall and average daily temperature dipping below -20 degrees from November till Early March. The road to Chitkul re-opens again in the end of March month. For rest of the months Chitkul is inaccessible due to heavy snowfall or landslides.
How to Reach Chitkul
If you are thinking of coming via flights then the nearest airport to reach Chitkul is Shimla’s Jubbarbatti Airport. Only airline that offers daily flight connectivity to Shimla is Air India. So, do check the flight running status on or before your travelling dates, before booking down the flights. These flights, depending on the month of the year can get erratic due to environmental or logistics issue.
Shimla is the nearest Railway station to Chitkul. Shivalik express is one of the World Heritage site, tagged toy train service between Kalka Station till Shimla. The train runs on a meter gauge track which was opened by erstwhile British Government in the year 1903. It still runs daily between the Kalka Station to Shimla, passing through 102 tunnels and 87 bridges and takes 6hrs to cover a total distance of 96 kms between Kalka and Shimla .
By Bus or Public Transport
You can easily take an HRTC bus from Delhi, Chandigarh or Shimla so as to reach Chitkul. You can either way reach directly to Sangla village which is only 23Kms from Chitkul. Or else you can take the direct bus to Reckong Peo . Any way you can alight at Karcham and again take a local bus or a private taxi from Karcham to reach Chitkul.
There is a daily morning government run HRTC bus service between Shimla – Sangla .The bus leaves Shimla at around 7.30 AM in the morning and reaches Sangla at around 2 PM. From Sangla, hop into a local shared taxi till Chitkul. It may cost not more than Rs 40-50 from Sangla. There are some other buses too that runs on this route. Originating from the city of Chandigarh/Delhi ISBT terminals the bus ticket costs around Rs 250 for a one way ticket in the ordinary bus.
By private/hired Vehicle
It is the best and fastest way to reach Chitkul. But is way too costly if you are planning a short trip to Chitkul and neaby Sangla valley. May cost upward of Rs 19000 for a trip to Chitkul and back to Shimla.
Some map distance compilation just to help you in your plans to reach Sangla and Chitkul.
Where to stay in Chitkul
There are Zostels, quite a few home stays and if you are searching for a comfy luxurious stay ,there are some options of luxurious Tent Houses available. Click the following link Deblok riverside Camping. The price can be as high as Rs 2500 per night. You can also find few of the several budget hotels as an option for a night stay at Chitkul. Most do not costs more than Rs700 – Rs 800 per night.
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