Chitkul: Himalayan village with cleanest air in India - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Chitkul: Himalayan village with cleanest air in India

Chitkul - the last village on the Hindustan Tibet highway

It goes by many titles. Some call it the ‘last inhabited village on the Hindustan-Tibet highway’. Some refer to it as the place with the cleanest air in India. Others call it the ‘gateway to Kailash’. Whatever its title may be, this tiny village in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh packs a serious punch when it comes to snow capped Himalayan mountain peaks, beautiful meadows, wooden houses, farm land, apple orchards and a pristine blue glacier fed river. I am talking about Chitkul, the first village in the Baspa valley and the last village on the Hindustan-Tibet highway.

Chitkul and the snow capped Himalayas

The last point on the Kinnaur Kailash parikrama circuit, Chitkul is a tiny Himalayan village that is situated at an elevation of 11,320 feet above MSL in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. Flanked by mighty snow capped mountains of the Himalayas, this village located in the Baspa river valley is full of potato fields (these potatoes are mighty famous and fetch a pretty price), buckwheat fields, apple orchards and pretty little wooden houses. There is also a 500 year old wooden temple that is located right in the middle of this village and that enjoys a very pretty setting.

Scenic forest trail from Chitkul to Sangla

Relaxation, pure air and detox are usually on the mind for most visitors and rightly so as this beautiful Himalayan village seems to have everything from a pretty riverside, lush fields and orchards and surreal panoramas. This place is ideal for anyone thinking of a digital detox. Organic food, pristine atmosphere and long walks offer a perfect avenue to rejuvenate yourself. But, there are a bunch of people who visit this village as part of a trekking expedition. Some of them are following a religious trail, but the others are simply on an adventurous trip.

Buckwheat harvest at Chitkul, Himachal Pradesh

The remote and tough Lamkhaga pass that connects the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh with the Gangotri side of Uttarakhand is one of the more popular trekking routes here. This ancient trekking route, located to the south-east of Chitkul was the way the locals carried their temple deity to Gangotri for religious events. The other popular trekking routes around Chitkul are the Chitkul-Charang pass trek that is part of the Kinnaur Kailash parikrama circuit, the Borasu pass trek (an ancient trade route between Har Ki Doon valley of Uttarakhand and the Kinnaur valley of Himachal Pradesh), the Ranikanda meadows trek and the Baspa river trek that connects Chitkul with Raksham, Sangla and Karcham.

Trekking trail from Chitkul to Sangla by the Baspa river

You can also trek to the Rangrik Rang mountain peak, but since this peak is close to the Indo-China border, this would require special permissions. There are many other different mountain trails around Chitkul that you can also explore, but do remember to stay clear of the east of Chitkul as the Indian army camp, a few kilometers away is the last point that you can enter in this region unless you have special military permissions.

Traditional wooden houses of Chitkul

In late autumn, winter and early spring, Chitkul turns into a white fairy tale village. In August and September, the apple orchards come alive. And in October, the last potato and buckwheat harvest can be seen. In spring, wild flowers adorn the Baspa river valley and in summer, it turns into a mesmerizing hill station. Whatever be your interest and whichever time of the year you happen to visit Chitkul, this Himachali village on the extreme corner of Kinnaur district is bound to blow your mind with its pristine nature and simple, laidback life. The place is so beautiful that I would return here in a heartbeat!

That way is the riverside trekking trail from Chitkul to Sangla

How to reach here:

By road: From Shimla, head straight on the Shimla – Recong Peo highway till you arrive at Karcham, the confluence of the Sutlej and the Baspa rivers just before Recong Peo. At this junction turn right towards Sangla, Rakcham and Chitkul.

By rail: Shimla would be your nearest railway station. You can take the famous Kalka Shimla heritage train to reach here. From Shimla, you will have to go by road to Chitkul.

By air: The nearest airport would be Chandigarh. Kullu airport is also an option, though flight options would be lower. From Chandigarh, you can complete the remainder journey by road or take the train to Shimla and then drive to Chitkul.

Chitkul kids dance to traditional music

Where to stay:

If you don’t mind simple homestays and hotels, you can stay at Chitkul itself. If you want slightly better facilities, head to Sangla, Recong Peo or Kalpa.

Backpacking to Chitkul - a heavenly villages in the high Himalayas of Himachal Pradesh

Best season to visit:

Except the peak of winter, when there is extremely heavy snowfall, Chitkul can be explored the rest of the year. Apple season (August and October), spring (late February to April) and summer (May to July) are perfect to experience this Himalayan village.

Basking in the early morning sun of Chitkul, Himachal Pradesh

Nearby tourist attractions:

1) Rakcham village for its lovely riverside atmosphere

2) Kinner Kailash trek

3) Kalpa village for the Kailash view

4) Sangla village for apples during season and also for lovely views of the Kailash mountain

5) Nako village for its lake and monastery

6) Tabo village for its monastery

7) Baspa river trek, a riverine forest trek flanked by the Himalayas

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