Chitkul is an enchanting hamlet encompassing the picturesque Kinnaur Valley. The scenic village lies in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh and is the only motorable village on the India-Tibet border. At 11,319 ft, Chitkul is enveloped by towering snow-clad mountains overlooking the left bank of the Baspa River.
An undiscovered beauty in the wilderness, Chitkul is an offbeat destination that is disconnected from the bustle of urban life–a serene landscape embedded in the divine realm of serenity and peace. The rustic enclave is decorated with exquisite orchards, lush green meadows, a gurgling river, and majestic mountains on all sides. Chitkul is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. The unadulterated landscape of Chitkul makes it a popular spot for campers, explorers, trekkers, and backpackers.
Chitkul village falls on the deserted Indo-Tibetan route and corners the slopes of majestic Deodars, exotic Chilgoza forests and dignified orchards overflowing with the finest apples. The settlement offers splendid views of the Kinner Kailash in the backdrop and its indigenous wildlife, dense foliage, vegetation, and terrain.
The town's culture and heritage date back to ancient myths–the people of Kinnaur were also known as Kinnaras, an amalgamation of gods and humans. The villagers are devout followers of Hinduism and Buddhists and speak in the local Tibeto-Burmese dialect, Kinnauri. The diverse region is dotted with ancient monasteries and copious historical temples at almost every juncture.
Chitkul is swaddled by picturesque regions on all sides–with Garhwal in the south and Tibet in the east, Spiti Valley on the north side, and Kullu on the western side. Chitkul is separated by a distance of 600 kilometres from Delhi and around 350 kilometres from Chandigarh. Borasa Pass and Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary lie in the vicinity of the scenic village. The Indo-Tibet border lies at a distance of 90km from the Chitkul village. The area beyond the hamlet is under the control of the Indo-Tibet Border Police.
Wake up to crystal clear blue skies and the twittering of birds against the backdrop of the breathtaking sunset in the serene landscape of Chitkul. Bask in the sun amidst the snow-laden mountains of the Himalayas as you relish the beauty of the peaceful settlement. With the drifting Baspa River in the background alongside a wide array of apple orchids, Chitkul is nothing short of a backpacker's paradise.
Trekking in Chitkul attracts numerous visitors throughout the year. Some of the most popular trekking routes in Chitkul include Nagari ITBP, Rani Kanda Meadow, Borasu Pass, and Lamkhaga Pass.
There are primarily two ways to reach the quaint village of Chitkul. The easiest route is via Shimla, and the longest route begins from Manali.
Depending on the mode of transportation, the journey to Chitkul is relatively long by road as Chitkul is a secluded village in the folds of the Himalayas, far away from the bustle of the city. Roads are maintained for most of the route.
The road passes through mighty vistas, gliding along lush valleys and dense forests. After you cross Narkanda, the route goes downhill across the river bed of Sutlej to reach Karcham, after which it gradually ascends towards Sangla and ultimately reaches Chitkul.
It is advisable to always be careful on the tricky Himalayan trails meandering through sharp ascents and descents. The single-lane roads are often bustling with oncoming traffic, so that it can be challenging.
The closest airport to Chitkul is Shimla. Bhunter Airport lies at a distance of approximately 275 km from Chitkul. You should be aware that the flights have limited capacity due to their compact size. Shimla is the closest Railway station to Chitkul. After that, you need to travel by road.
Since Chitkul is sequestered in nature's lap, it is possible to reach the hamlet only by road. Local HRTC buses or public transport is available from Shimla ISBT, where buses are available for two routes, Reckong Peo or Sangla.
The bus from Sangla to Chitkul runs daily, and the last bus from Chitkul to Sangla leaves at 3:30 PM. The route to Chitkul runs along the Hindustan-Tibet Highway or NH- 05.
Apart from buses, taxis are available from Shimla as well. The only downside of local transport is its high price. Local drivers charge fairs ranging from 3000-3500 per day.
If you are travelling in a large group, the cost should not be much of a problem. Shimla is a commercial tourist town, so prices alter depending on the place's time and season.
The best time to visit Chitkul is in March, April, and May. Due to the high altitude, Chitkul is cold throughout the year. The intensity of the cold increases or decreases according to the season. In the summer months, the blue skies overhead are clear, and the weather is bearable. Be prepared to wear warm clothes, even in summer.
If you want to visit Chitkul during the colder winter months, you must prepare accordingly. The winters are unbearably cold, and the village experiences heavy snowfall. During the winter season, Chitkul is not open to tourists due to the freezing temperatures. The temperatures in summer range between 5 degrees Celsius to 20 degrees Celsius. The roads close from November when the valley experiences snowfall with the temperature as low as -20 degrees Celius. The road reopens in March.
Mathi Devi Temple
The main temple of Mathi Devi is around 500 years old. As an architectural gem, the rustic wooden roofs have been replaced by stone. The temple is a combination of wood and stone, a perfect example of the distinct pahadi style of architecture. The locals are staunch followers of the Goddess, Mathi devi, and the iconic statue is embellished with garments made from yak's hair. The temple is constructed in the middle of the village–its intricate wooden carvings and distinctive roof structure is the finest example of the Kinnauri vernacular style of architecture.
The historic fort of Chilkut towers over the base of the village. Although it is referred to as 'fort,' Chitkul fort is a three-story shrine that replicates the typical pahadi style. The tower-like structure base is made from local stone, while the upper three storeys are made from separate stone and wood layers. There is even a shrine at the top, which is surrounded by wooden balconies from all sides.
Chitkul village is blessed with the gurgling streams and waters of the Baspa River. The river is a popular spot for water sports and trekking, overlooking the majestic vistas' backdrop. River rafting and boat rides are popular among tourists—the river's roaring waters spread across the dense forests of tall, thick green pine and oak trees. Fishing for local trout fish is another popular activity near the river.
When packing for a winter trip to Chitkul, be sure to pack plenty of warm clothing. A heavy coat, scarf, and gloves are essential, as temperatures can dip below freezing at night. In addition, comfortable walking shoes are a must, as you'll likely be doing a lot of walking around in the snow. And last but not least, don't forget to pack your camera – Chitkul is an absolutely stunning place and you'll want to capture its beauty!
When the weather in Chitkul starts to get colder in the winters, there are still plenty of activities to keep you busy. Here are some popular winter activities in Chitkul:
1. Skiing and Snowboarding
With the beautiful mountains surrounding Chitkul, it's no surprise that skiing and snowboarding are popular winter activities. There are several ski resorts in the area, so you can spend a day or two hitting the slopes.
2. Ice Skating
If you're looking for something a little less strenuous, ice skating is also a popular activity in Chitkul. There are a few indoor and outdoor rinks where you can enjoy an afternoon of skating.
3. Sledding and Tobogganing
For some fun in the snow, head to one of the hills in Chitkul for sledding or tobogganing. This is a great activity for kids and adults alike!
4. Snowshoeing and Hiking
Get out and explore the beauty of nature with snowshoeing or hiking. There are many trails in the area to choose from, so you can find one that's perfect for your skill level.
If you're planning on spending some time in Chitkul during the winter, you'll need to find a place to stay that can accommodate your needs. There are a few options available, depending on what you're looking for.
The first option is to stay in one of the many guesthouses that are available in Chitkul. These guesthouses typically have a few basic amenities, but they're usually clean and comfortable. Additionally, they're typically very affordable, making them a great option for budget-minded travelers.
If you're looking for something a bit more luxurious, there are also a few hotels in Chitkul. These hotels typically have more amenities than guesthouses, but they also come at a higher price tag. However, if you're willing to splurge, staying in a hotel can be a great way to enjoy your time in Chitkul.
Finally, if you're traveling with a group of people, you may want to consider camping near Baspa river in Chitkul. This can be a great way to save money on accommodation costs, as well as give you more space and view of the Baspa river than you would have in a guesthouse or hotel room.