A Jeep Safari from Shimla to Leh through the valleys of Spiti and Lahaul can serve the purpose of facing scenarios where accepting challenges is not an option but a mandate.
The once summer capital of British Raj, Shimla now enjoys a unanimous status of honeymooner’s dream, but for individuals with a peculiar habit of breaking out of rut can choose a road trip beginning from here and presenting a wide stretch of road to be steering-maneuvered. The features that make it popular excuse of explorers and enthusiasts in secluded places include the simple yet distinctive culture of the mountains who deal with all the harshness of Nature but never move away in complain.
Temples (Jakhu and Bhimkali), peaks (Kinner Kailash, Shrikanda Mahadev, etc), mountain passes (Kunzum, Baralacha, Tanglang La and Kardung La), valleys (Spiti, Lahaul, Pang and Indus), rivers (Sutlej, Indus and Tzanspo), monasteries (Tabo, Ki, Lalung, Hemis, etc) and the villages that house all the above mentioned lures are key attractions of Jeep safari from Shimla to Leh.
DAY 1: ARRIVE CHANDIGARH AND DRIVE TO MASHOBRA
You need to reach Chandigarh – the start-off point for this fantastic trip! If you’re coming from Delhi, we recommend you board the train to Chandigarh at 0740 hrs. Our team will be there to pick you up at Chandigarh railway station at 11:05 hrs and we will drive straight on to Mashobra – a pretty little town outside of Simla with spectacular views. If you are bringing your own car you must arrive at Chandigarh station by 11.00 and we will all head off together. It’s a 4-5 hrs drive. Your Spiti Jeep Safari has just begun!
DAY 2: DRIVE TO THANEDAR
Thanedar, our next day’s destination, is a mere 80 km journey through amazing mountains and beautiful orchards to 2300m. Here we camp overnight in Swiss tents and it really begins to feel like we’re ‘getting away from it all’.
DAY 3: DRIVE TO SANGLA VALLEY
From Thanedar we drive 190km through the Sutlej Gorge which opens up into the magical Sangla valley at an altitude of 2,815 metres. This sublime hidden valley was closed to outsiders until 1989 due to its strategic position near the Indo-Tibetan border. The Baspa River flows through the valley, which is rich in pine nut, apple and cherry orchards, and glacial streams with Himalayan trout. Sangla valley is a delight for nature lovers and a real Shangri La.
We spend 2 nights here in camp to make the most of this beautiful Spiti valley.
DAY 4: STAY IN SANGLA VALLEY
The following morning, after enjoying the sunrise if you wake up early enough, take a drive up the valley to the lost village of Chitkul at an altitude of 3460m, indescribably beautiful, with its ancient wooden homes and an ornate gate that leads to an old walking route to Tibet. Chitkul is the last inhabited village before the Tibet border. Explore the Kamru Fort which is now the temple of the Goddess Kamakshi – the universal Mother Goddess whose name literally means “one whose eyes are full of desire”, who eventually married Lord Shiva (often referred to as “The Destroyer” or “The Transformer”). Visit the Beri Nag snake temple and take in the stunning views of the mighty Himalaya. There is also an old Kagyupa monastery which houses a highly valued image of Shakyamuni Buddha.
DAY 5: DRIVE FROM SANGLA TO TABO
After enjoying the picture perfect Sangla Valley for 2 nights, we drive to Tabo – the 193 KM journey will take around seven hours and you will drive past a board put up by the Border Roads Organization that says: “you are travelling on the world’s most treacherous road!” crossing over an altitude of 3800m. You now enter the Spiti valley – a geological and archaeological living museum. En route visit the Gyu Monastery and see the Gyu Mummy, a monk who has been perfectly preserved, and was hidden from the world for around 500 years, until an earthquake in 1975 cracked open the tomb. Climb to the ancient village of Tabo, built in AD 996 on the bank of the Spiti river at an altitude of 3,280 meters. The town surrounds a Buddhist monastery which, according to legend, is said to be over a 1000 years old. For His Holiness the Dalai Lama, this Tabo Monastery is one of the holiest and he has often expressed his desire to retire here. This evening’s accommodation is in a local hotel.
DAY 6: DRIVE FROM TABO TO KAZA
After breakfast, drive from Tabo to Kaza, around 75 KM stretch that should take about three hours. Stop enroute to visit Dhankar, the traditional capital of Spiti. The hilltop fort, which served as a jailhouse in the past, still dominates the landscape. Visit the 500 year old Dhankar monastery at an altitude of 3890m famous for its statue of the Dhyani Buddha, four statues of the Buddha facing all directions, sitting back-to-back. Also stop at Demul to visit the monastery. We take the lesser used road via the interesting villages of Komik, Hikkim and Langza, which are some of the highest villages in India which are inhabited year round. Take time to visit the Komik Monastery, the world’s highest post office at Hikkim, and see the natural fossil park at Langza. Continue on to Kaza – the commercial centre of Spiti, situated at 3,450 meters at the foot of steep ridges on the left bank of the Spiti river.
Overnight at hotel.
DAY 7: STAY IN KAZA
The next day is a leisurely day in Kaza, the primary “city” in Spiti and you can take your time to visit the amazing surrounding monasteries – all beautifully preserved because of the dry air and altitude. The lack of too many tourists helps as well. Some of the more famous Gompa (monastery) here are:
Ki Monastery (3930m) 13.5 km from Kaza:
It is the biggest monastery of Spiti Valley and a religious training Centre for Lamas. With its collection of ancient murals and books, including Buddha images, this Gompa is a must-visit. The walls of the monastery are covered with paintings and murals, an example of the 14th century monastic architecture, which developed as a result of Chinese influence.
The monastery has a look of a fortified castle being surrounded by high walls. It is one of two Sakya monasteries left in the Lahaul and Spiti Valley and likely to have been built in the early 14th century. The village of Tangyud lies at the foot of this monastery that is located at an elevation of 4,470 meters. The Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary is easily accessible from here.
Kibber is a scenic village that forms an important trekking route to Tso Moriri, Ladakh. Come election time, Kibber gets national prominence – the locals claim it is the highest polling station in the world!
Comic Monastery 22.4 km from Kaza:
At an altitude of 4,500 meters you travel along high mountains roads through the village of Langza at 4200m
Sherab Choeling Nunnery 12.km from Kaza
Based in the Village of Moorang, the Sherab Choeling Nunnery currently houses 72 Nuns. Built in 1995 by 20 nuns and their teacher to address the problem of the inadequate education of women in the region, this is a delightful place to spend some time and sip a cup of tea.
Spend overnight at a Kaza hotel.
DAY 8: DRIVE FROM KAZA TO MANALI VIA KUNZUM LA
Come Day 8, the 180 KM stretch, should take you around nine hours. You’re driving to Manali via Losar through some of the most dramatic mountain terrain. If you stop for a wander you might find fossils, which date back to 400 million years when the land was the Tethys seabed. Cross the Kunzum La Pass (4590 meters) and the Rohtang pass (3978 meters) on the way to Manali. Stop at the top of the Kunzum La to visit the Durga temple, give thanks for your journey, and take in the breathtaking (literally!) view at 4,590 metres. There are magnificent views of the Bara-Sigri glacier, the second longest in the world.
Note: If you’re doing this trip in May/June, Kunzum La is still closed, so instead of heading to Manali, you come back to Kalpa, then on to Chandigarh and back to Delhi.
DAY 9: FULL DAY IN MANALI
A little hill town that burgeoned into a thriving tourist centre that still holds many charms. Home to some of the finest vegetarian pizzas this side of the universe (that’s what we believe!) as well as some Tibetan thupka – take your pick! Morning half-day tour visiting Naggar Castle, Roerich Art Gallery (closed on Mondays) and few old temples in Naggar village. Afternoon half-day city tour visiting Hadimba Devi Temple, Manu Temple, Tibetan Monastery and Vashisht Village. Evening free to explore Manali market.
DAY 10: DRIVE MANALI TO CHANDIGARH AND ON TO DELHI
Day 10 is our final day and breakfast is at the hotel. For those who’ve taken the chauffeur-driven option, you will take an early morning drive to Chandigarh which is 292 KM – which should take you maximum seven hours by road, to board the train for Delhi at 18:23 Hrs. Our team will meet you at the New Delhi railway station when the train trudges in at 21:55 Hrs.
For those driving down their own vehicles, you can choose to leave Manali at your own convenience.
Meet assist at the airport / train stations.
Welcome with fresh flower garlands.
09 nights accommodation in hotels/camps on twin sharing basis.
Self-drive/chauffeur-driven vehicles (Scorpio/Innova or similar)
Walkie-talkies in each car.
Support jeep with trip leader and mechanic.
All meals – 09 Breakfasts, 8 Lunches, and 8 Dinners.
Basic medical kit including oxygen canister.
All government taxes included.
For the chauffeur-driven option: All of the above plus:
Train tickets from Delhi to Chandigarh – for those choosing the chauffeur-driven option.
Pick up and drop off from airport/railway station, Delhi to Delhi.
Fully equipped vehicles with experienced drivers – includes fuel costs as well.
International/Domestic air fare or train fare.
Unforeseen expenses that demand a change in itinerary like natural forces, changes in weather, road blockages, flight/train cancellations and illness.
Medical, Travel, or Evacuation insurance.
Expenses of a personal nature – tips, laundry, phone calls, beverages.
Fuel costs of the vehicle you drive – hired or own