Kalpa, Kinnaur and Sangla – The Hidden Jewels of Himachal
13 –20 June, 2021 | 8 Days/7 Nights
Every summer, heat-maddened hordes invade Himachal Pradesh and convert Solan & Simla, Kullu & Manali into traffic-jammed, rubbish-strewn, overcrowded and sweat-stained clones of the towns and cities they have left behind on the plains. Is there some hope in this man-made hell, you may wonder?
The answer is a resounding YES! For a day’s drive due east from Simla (and sufficiently far away from it to deter all but the most determined summer holidayer) is the fabled region of Kinnaur – a land of blue skies, soaring peaks, deep valleys, apple orchards, chilgoza forests, syncretic cultures, inhabitants who don’t lend to easy classification and most of all – genuine peace and soul-calming solitude far, far from the madding crowd.
Ever since we began, Wonderful World has been driving through Kinnaur on our way to Spiti and taking deep & longing looks at its unspoiled river valleys, marvellous treks and its proximity to Tibet. This year, we’ve bitten the bullet and hereby announce our first ever adventure to the heart of Kinnaur. So join us for 7 nights in June as we explore the valleys of the Satluj the Spiti and the Baspa and visit places with names that were once synonymous with long-vanished mountain kingdoms that controlled trade & travel between India and Tibet but are now all but forgotten – Rampur-Bushahr, Rekong Peo, Kalpa, Sangla, Pooh and Nako.
This trip will be a mixture of drives (some long, others not so), daytime hikes to take in the gorgeous views and lots of relaxing, chatting, reading; whatever be your personal preference. Your journey will begin at Chandigarh, bypass a heaving-with-humanity Simla and halt for the night at Narkanda, deep in apple country and on the slopes of the highest mountain in the region – Hatu Peak. The next morning you will continue on NH 22 – the unromantic new name for the old Hindustan -Tibet Road and plunge straight into the valley of the mighty (and sometimes scary) Satluj tamed rather unconvincingly by a dam at Karcham-Wangtoo (which you shall pass by).
Rampur Bushahr sprawled along both banks of the Satluj was once the capital of ancient Simla & Kinnaur and the busiest centre of the Tibetan trade. The privately-owned Padam Palace seat of the erstwhile royal family of Bushahr, which is adorned with intricate carvings on stone and wood, is a particular delight. As is the Bhimakali Temple at nearby Sarahan, a magnificent example of what can result when two religions and two cultures meet harmoniously.
Leaving the Satluj at Karcham you shall enter the beautiful Sangla Valley watered by the fast-flowing Baspa River for your first glimpse of Lord Shiva’s winter abode – the 20,000 foot Kinner Kailash. This mountain, which is the focal point of a tough but rewarding Parikrama, will be a looming presence for much of your stay in Kinnaur as you shall be viewing it from different directions on different days.
Further up the Sangla Valley and in the continuous company of both the Baspa and Kinner Kailash you shall spend a day at heavenly Chitkul, the last inhabited village on this particular side-road to the Tibet border.
Back in the Satluj Valley, you shall pause briefly at colourful and bustling Rekong Peo, capital of Kinnaur before heading for a village directly above it – the charming Kalpa, surrounded by groves of Chilgoza-Pine and offering unmatched views of the Satluj Valley, Kinner Kailash and its surrounding peaks.
From Kalpa, you will continue eastwards along the raging Satluj now entering wholly Buddhist territory. And just when you think how wonderful it would be if Wonderful World could take you to Tibet on the sly, you shall cross the river at its confluence with the Spiti and climb northwards into the now bare hills of Upper Kinnaur for Nako.
At nearly 12,000 feet, Nako will be quite literally the highpoint of your journey and shall take your breath away. An old Kinnauri village built around a small but picturesque lake, at Nako you are one with the sky, the sun, the stark, snow-capped mountains, the stars at night and your God.
Your spirits will soar and your senses will be euphoric!