Kinnaur - the land of fairy tales and fantasies, has a spectacular terrain of lush green valley, orchards, vineyards, snow clad peaks and cold desert mountains. It is a border district of Himachal Pradesh. Kinnaur is also rich in flora & fauna. The culture and language is different from other parts of the state. Kinnaur, the tribal district of Himachal Pradesh, lies 250 km away from Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh and is situated on the NH - 22 (Hindustan Tibet Road). The landscape of the area varies from lush green orchards of the scenic Sangla Valley to the stark magnificence of the Hangrang Valley. The massive snow clad ranges that provide a regal dignity to the scene are dominated by the peak of Kinner Kailash. Kalpa is one of the biggest and beautiful villages of Kinnaur. One can enter Kinnaur district at Village Chshora and follow a straight line road constructed in vertical rock and it is a rare treat to travel on this road which is a great engineering feat.
Kinnaur is the south eastern district of Himachal Pradesh and lies at an altitude ranging between 2320 - 6816 m. It is situated on the National Highway No - 22 which is popularly known as the Hindustan Tibet Road. Shimla, the state capital is around 250 km away. The district is basically a mountanious region with a temperate climate. Vegetation in areas on higher elevation is sparse while at lower elevation temeperate trees like oak, chestnut, maple, birch, alder, magnolia, apple and apricot can be spotted.
About The History & Legend Of Kinnaur
The people of Kinnaur believe themselves to be the descendants of the Pandavas of the great Hindu epic, Mahabharata. They also believe that their ancestors were somewhere between men and god and had supernatural powers.
About the history of Kinnaur, not much is known. What is however known is that the area was ruled by the Magadha kingdom, Mauryan Empire and Guge Kingdom of Tibet before 12th century. Frequent conflicts led to the disintegration of Kinnaur into seven parts or Sat Khund. It took efforts from Mughal Emperor Akbar to reconsolidate the entire area. At this point of time, Kinnaur became very prominent. So much so that even after the fall of the Mughal Empire, Kinnaur managed to retain its identity for sometime. Later on, it merged with the Mahasu district. The current district of Kinnaur came into existence in the year 1960.
Tourists coming to Kinnaur have a lot to see and do. There are beautiful natural surroundings to relax and refresh. Nearly every village of the district has a gompa or a temple. Moreover, since Kinnaur is located on the Indo - Tibet border, their culture and lifestyle is a considerable mix of both.
Kinnaur is not accessible throughout the year. In the winter season, heavy snowfall cover the area and block the passage to Kinnaur. The best time to visit Kinnaur is in summers, between the months of April to October.
Situated at the height of 2758 m above the sea level and 110 km from Sarahan, Kalpa is a beautiful and main village of Kinnaur. Across the river faces the majestic mountains of the Kinner Kailash range. These are spectacular sights early in the morning as the rising sun touches the snowy peaks with crimson and golden light.
Beyond Recong Peo, around 14 km from Powari is the former district headquarter of Kinnaur, Kalpa. Kalpa is located at an altitude of 2758 m and also offers some fantastic early morning views of the Kinner Kailash. According to legends, Kalpa is the winter abode of Shiva and all the god of Kinnaur assemble before him during this time for an annual conference. And when the supreme god himself seems to be so impressed by the beauty of Kalpa, how can human beings be far behind? So Kalpa has also managed to enchant many its human visitors. Lord Dalhousie, for one was extremely fond of the outstanding views offered by Kalpa and took frequent ride to the region.
Even today, you can take a ride upto Kalpa and enjoy the scenic beauty enroute. However, be prepared for a tough drive. Once in Kalpa, you can also take up a hiking expedition to Recong Peo. This hike too, will be tough and it is better for you to ride back to Kalpa.
ACCESS : Nearest Airport (267 km) and Railhead (244 km) is at Shimla. The route is on NH - 22 (The Hindustan Tibet Road) which bifurcates to Kalpa from Powari. Buses and Taxis are available at Shimla and Rampur. One can also reach Kalpa via Manali - Rohtang Pass - Kunzam Pass - Kaza (400 km).
CLIMATE : In winter, the temperature can drop to below freezing point when heavy woolens are required and for summers light woolens are recommended.
PLACES OF INTEREST
RECONG PEO (2670M) : Located 240 km from Shimla, 7 km from Powari and 13 km from Kalpa. Recong Peo is the headquarter of district Kinnaur. It is a pretty mountain town at an altitude of 2200 m. The town is surrounded by the Kinner Kailash ranges which are considered extremely sacred by the people. From Recong Peo, the view of the snow covered Kinner Kailash is simply breathtaking. A recently constructed gompa, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama carried out a 'Kalchakra' ceremony in 1992, is also an attraction here.
KOTHI : Just 3 km from Recong Peo. Kothi has a temple dedicated to the goddess Chanadika Devi. Set against a backdrop of mountains and graves of the deodar the temple has an unusual architectural style and fine sculpture. An exquisite gold image of goddess is enshrined in sanctum. Also known as Koshtampi, this village is dominated by the peaks of the Kinner Kailash. The main attraction of the village is the Shuwang Chandika' temple. The natural beauty of the village is worth seeing.
SANGLA VALLEY :
If a landscape had the powers of casting spells, then the Sangla valley would be a magician extraordinary. Once seen, it is a place that can never be forgotten. Even the rushing waters of the Baspa river, that flow through its 95 km length, seem to absorb some of the magic and slow down to savor its snow-frame beauty. 2 km from Sangla is the fort of Kamru (300 m) its tower like architecture resembles that of the Bhima Kali complex and this was the origin of rulers of Bushehar. Chitkul (3450 m) is the last village of the valley and beyond lies Tibet.
This is one of the prettiest valleys of Kinnaur district. It is also known by the name of Baspa valley because the river Baspa flows through it. Natural attraction here include the magnificent views of the Kinner Kailash peak, wonderful saffron fields and relaxing alpine meadows. Other attraction in the valley include the Kamru Fort and the Kamakshi Temple. The former is the erstwhile bastion of the rajas of the Rampur and Bushehr State while the latter is the place where the coronation ceremony of these rajas were usually conducted. The idol in this temple was brought all the way from the Kamakhya Temple of Guwahati.
Sangla valley is also quiet perfect for those interested in adventure sports. Options for angling, river crossing, paragliding, trekking, bird watching and forest trails are available to enthuse you. Shopping in Sangla Valley is yet another attraction for you. Items ranging from colourful Kinnauri shawls, local tweed, woolen socks, silver jewelleries to Kinnaur's speciality, Golden Delicious' apples and chilgozhas are available. You can also pick up walnut, saffron and almonds which are comparitively cheaper here.
RIBA (2745M) : Just 18 km from Powari on NH-22 is famous for its vineyards and local wine 'Angoori' made from grapes.
JANGI : 26 km from Powari, the inner border is located here beyond which foreigners require permit to travel upto Tabo. From this point the famous Kinner Kailash Parikarama Trek starts touching Morang, Thangi and Kunocharang villages and entering Chitkul village in Sangla Valley.
PUH (2837m) : Lush green fields, orchards of apricot, almond trees and vineyards, are to be seen on route to Puh. Just 58 km from Powari along the NH-22, Puh has rest house and basic hotel facilities.
NAKO (3662m) : 117 km from Kalpa. In Hangrang Valley is the largest village above sea level. It is also famous for Nako Lake which has boating facilities in summer and during winter its frozen surface is used for ice skating. Buddhist monastery is located here.
TABO (3050m) : 163 km from Kalpa and 27 km from Sando the ancient village, Tabo is situated on the left bank of river Spiti. Flanked on either side by hills, it is one of the most important Buddhist monasteries regarded by many as only next to the Tholing Gompa in Tibet. It is also known as the Ajanta of the Himalayas. Tabo is the largest monastic complex of Spiti which has since been declared a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India.
KAZA (3600m) : 210 km from Kalpa 47 from Tabo. The headquarters of Spiti sub-district, Kaza is on the bank of river Spiti. In earlier times, it was the capital of Nono, the chief of Spiti. It has a Buddhist Monastery and Hindu Temple.
KEY GOMPA (4116m) : 7 km from Kaza. The largest monastery in Spiti Valley. Established in the 11th century, it has ancient Buddhist scrolls and paintings. Also houses the largest number of Buddhist monks and nuns.
KIBBER (4205 m) : 18 km from Kaza. The highest village in the world which is connected by a motorable road and also the highest village in the world which has its own polling station during elections.
KUNZAM PASS (4551m) : 76 km: One of the highest motorable passes. Goddess Kunjum keeps guard over the pass and wards of the evil.
Chitkul : At an altitude of 3450 m is the last and highest village of the Sangla Valley, Chitkul. Beyond Chitkul is the difficult and unwelcoming mountain terrain. Still further is Tibet. Actually, Chitkul lies in an area that, earlier, was the trade route between India and Tibet. One look at the people of Chitkul will conform this connection with Tibet. The looks of these people as well as the jewelleries they wear reminds of the Tibetan influence.
A drive from Sangal village to Chitkul is full of variety scenes. You will come across winding and cutting streams, pretty countryside, desnsely forested hillside, alpine meadows and lastly barren mountains. Within Chitkul itself, there are three temples of local goddess Mathi. The main temples here are believed to be built around 500 years ago.
Nichar : This is a small village with fascinating views of the surroundings. Ghoral, Antelopes, Black & Red Bears are occasionaly encountered in higher ranges.
Morang : Morang is a small village located on the left bank of river Satluj. The highlights of this village is predominantly its location. You reach it passing through apricot orchards. Also worthseeing are the three structures dedicated to the local goddess Urmig. The ark of the deity is usually placed in the fort, however once on an auspicious day, the ark is taken to these structures. The ark itself has got 18 'mukh' representing the 18 days of the great epic Mahabharat. The 'mukhs' are made of silver, gold and brass.