Kinnaur – Himachal Pradesh
Kinnaur is the area between Shimla and the border of Tibet. You need a permit (easy to attain) to visit many of the places here. To the north is the Zanskar Range, which forms the border with China and in the south is the Kinnaur Kailash Range, which has the mountains of Jorkanden (6473m), Phawarang (6349m) and Kinnaur Kailash (6050m). Most of the people in this region are of Mongol origin and follow Buddhism.
The beautiful Sangla Valley is south of the Kinnaur Kailash Range. The best time to visit this valley is in April and May and in September and October. The road up to the Sutlej Valley is closed part of the year in the winter. Sometimes it can be hard to find places to stay in this area, so a tent could be useful, because there are many places to camp.
You are allowed to go without a permit to Rekong Peo, Kalpa and the Sangla Valley. To go to northern Kinnaur you need a permit. You can get it at the Senior District Magistrate’s office in Shimla, Kullu, Chamba, Keylong, or at the Sub-District Magistrate’s office in Rekong Peo, Kaza, Nichar or Rampur. The permit is good for seven days, but can be extended at Rekong Peo or Kaza. Rekong Peo is a good place to get the permit. The magistrate’s office in Rekong Peo is near the bus stand.
To get a permit, you must have a letter of introduction from a travel agency, three passport size photos, and a photocopy of the front pages of your passport. You then fill out a form and submit it at the magistrate’s office. Mayur Guest House in Rekong Peo will give you this letter for fee. It may take the good part of a day to get the permit.
There are some great views of the mountains from this town (2,000m), which is the capital of Kinnaur. It has decent facilities and you may have to stay here while getting a permit to Kinnaur, Lahaul or Spiti.
The State Bank of India may change TCs. Rekong Peo is a good place to get supplies, as the villages in Lahaul and Spiti have limited supplies.
The Kinnaur Kalachakra Celestial Palace is a colorful gompa that is a 25-minute walk above the village. There is a large statue of the Buddha.
Mandala Tours and Travel, Gongma House, can arrange treks in the area and jeep safaris. The owner is helpful.
The ticket counter for the buses is about 100m from where the buses stop. There are buses to Kaza (12 hr, 1 daily), Rampur (1 daily), Mandi and Shimla (10 hr, several daily). There are buses to Kalpa and Powari.
Kalpa is a nice peaceful town, about 600m higher in elevation than Rekong Peo. It is said that Lord Siva comes here in the winter. During the month of Magha (Jan/Feb), the gods are said to come here to meet with Siva.
There are some great views of the mountains from here and some good walks in the area. There is a tendency to get lost in this area, so you should stay conscious of the trail or take a guide with you.
There are some buses between Kalpa and Rekong Peo. To get a long distance bus you usually have to go to Rekong Peo. It is a hard 1½ hr hike from Rekong Peo to Kalpa.
Sangla Village & Valley
This is a beautiful area that has some great views of the mountains and wildlife. In the village of Sangla there is a temple dedicated to Nagesh. In the village of Kamru, 2km from Sangla village, there is a wooden five-storey fort. It has a temple dedicated to Kamakshi in it.
Himachal Tourism Tents has good tents in the middle of the village.
There are buses to Shimla (10 hr) via Tapri, Rekong Peo, and Chitkul.
In Kinnaur there are some mild treks and some difficult ones going over some high-altitude passes. Routes in the Sutlej Valley can often be done without the help of porters. In other places you will need a porter and will have to camp out and have your own food. Porters can usually be hired in Rekong Peo and Rampur for around Rs 150 per day. In Sept/Oct during the harvest time they are more expensive and may be hard to find.
Sarahan to Wangtu Trek
This fairly easy trek begins near Sarahan and goes to the village of Chaura, where there is the Hirmal Devi Temple. On Day 2 you can go either to Tranda (8km) or another 9km to Paunda, where there is a rest house.
The next day you go to the village of Sangra, where there is a rest house. At Wangtu you can get transportation back to Shimla or continue the trek to Kalpa.
Wangtu to Kaza Trek
This difficult trek goes over the Great Himalayan Range going over Shakar La Pass and then goes through the Pin Valley. You definitely need a good guide, proper equipment and porters. The guide should ideally be arranged with an established travel agency. On Day 1 you start at Wangtu and then go to Kafnoo village. On Day 3, going over Bhaba Pass (4860m) is a tough walk through snow. Day 4 brings you to the beautiful Pin Valley and then it takes three or four days to reach Kaza.
To do this five to seven-day scenic trek you need to get an Inner Line permit. You first go to the village of Morang, which you get to by taking a bus from Rekong Peo or Tapri. You can then get a jeep to Thangi, from where the trek begins. On the second day it is a tough ascent to go over the Charagng La Pass (5260m).