Im planning on heading to India for two to three weeks in August (I know all about Monsoon and heat etc but due to work this is my only free time).
I am asking for help in planning a route; India is so large and with having to take the weather into account, its proving a big problem.
I will land in Deli and figure i will head up to Ladakh (for some treking) via the states of Haryana, then either Punjab OR Chandigarh (Shimla) and then into Himachal Pradesh. Im not adverse to either flying back to Delhi from Ladakh or coming back via a different route but I am aware of the size of the area and my limited time so would rather not rush around too much. I do wish to travel north overland though...
So if anyone can help with a more prescribed route etc that would be amazing! And if anyone is keen on hooking up whilst there, that could be cool too (Im a kiwi, 34, male)
Thanks in advance
If possible try to extend your trip to at least three weeks as travelling in mountainous areas is very slow.
The most ultimate experience you can get are in the following areas:
- Spiti & Pin Valley
- Road from Manali all the way to Leh
- Roads from Leh north or east to near Chinese border
- Road between Kashmir and Leh
All these areas are high altitude sometimes near 5000 meters. Acclimatization is important but unless you are unlucky, with sufficient time to adopt, lots of water, vitamins, summer to winter clothing, pair of boots, suncream and good sunglasses you should be fine. Spend 1-2 days on 2000-2500 first. Next two-three days try to sleep on 3000-3500, but you can already go up to 4000m. After five-seven days you should be able to stay on 4000-5000m constantly, although it is always good to go to lower altitude and rest and eat well a few days.
Easiest and cheapest way to trek is to get to a small town, village and trek up to a nearby monastery or "hill". It will still be enduring and adventurous.
On low altitude (2-3000m), I would recommend the following valleys: Parvati, Chamba.
Chandigar, Shimla, Dharamsala, Manali are all on the tourist maps. However, you will see that these places are way overrated to what they offer in terms of nature and authenticity compared to the more remote valleys, villages and towns. So, I would just use them as a transport hub and to spend maybe a night at any of these places - if you have limited time and you want to focus only on the bests.
The golden palace and the border ceremony at Amritsar are however one of the most interesting experiences you can get in India.
The sikh bath in Manikaram in Parvati Valley is also very beautiful.
So, if I were you I would go:
- Deli to Shimla
- Shimla through Spiti Valley (and possibly visit Pin Valley), 1 week with stops
- from Spiti Valley towards Leh (joining on the Manali-Leh route), 1 week with stops
- from Leh go north or east to explore some of the most remote areas in the world (should time allow)
- fly back from Manali
2) this is porbably a little longer
- Deli to Keylong (to take side route to Manikaram) and head back north to Manali
- Manali to Leh (1 week with stops)
- around Leh same as above
- Leh to Kashmir (not sure about time needed, but said to be a very remote, scary and adventurous road)
- Kashmir to Amrtisar
- Amristar to Leh
LP and other guidebooks can give you good info on time needed to travel on these routes. Always look for the small prints and the back of the chapters - you will find the true experience in those areas! You can always break your long bus journey at these places, take a day break and do some climbing.
Again, all these areas are extremely beautiful, adventurous, offer trekking route from small villages/towns. You will have the most amazing time that one can imagine.
Just an advice: try to sit always on toward the front of the bus and near an open window. However, you will have to let locals (especially children and women sit next to the window as they need to throw up constantly).
Travelling roof top is less common nowadays, however still possible. And very dangerous. Anyways, it's an adrenalin boosting experience. But don't do that late evening (you will get frozen) and on bumpy roads. Watch out for electric cables and branches...
Have a nice trip!
First, thanks so much for your thorough reply! I really like your route number 1. I have 20 days total and despite the heat and rain would like to look around Delhi, Agra and Varanasi but figure with overnight trains thats about 5 or 6 days (at a push!). So that leaves me about 15 days. I am trying to organise a book major transportation this weekend.
I have a few more questions if i may...
1. If i make it to Spiti valley (I can just pick up a bus easily at Shimla i guess?), should i just go to one location (Spiti, Kaza etc) and then hang around for a night or two max (staying where ever i find?) and try to do some local walking by myself or with others. Can i then continue to Keylong via Losar/Karcha? Any idea on how long the Shimla-Spiti and Spiti-Keylong routes take? Essentially it would be good to do it in under your suggested 1 week...
2. From Keyong to Leh i guess i can just book or jump on a bus. Having gone via Spiti, would it still be a good idea to aclimatise at Keylong for a day or so?
3. Once at Leh, I think i really want to climb Stok Khangri. I notice pre booked tours a very expensive. Is it likely to just join a group whilst there. I will be travelling light so am happy to go with a organised group if it makes life easier but i do like your idea of heading east and remote from Leh
Thank you for your time and precious advice!
While traveling to Kaza from Shimla, you will need Inner Line Permit (ILP) to travel to areas near the Tibetian border. The ILP can be obtained from the Deputy Commissioner Office in Shimla or at Recong Peo, the headquarter of Kinnaur district. There has to be a minimum 4 people traveling together through a travel agent.
Check this link on how to get Inner Line Permit in Himachal Pradesh
There are two buses which leave for Kaza in the evening from Shimla. I would suggest you add Recong Peo to your itinerary. Getting an ILP is easier in Recong Peo and you can also check the nearby Kalpa town.
If you have max two weeks from Delhi to the Himalayas and back, I would probably go to Spiti Valley only and come back in a circle to Manali and visit Parvati Valley to have enough time to spend and explore your the areas during your stops. And indeed you will need to arrange the border permit. Note that this area is equally remote, high altitude and fascinating as the road between Manali and Leh.
Couple of trips on this route:
I recommend taking a taxi up from Kaza up to Comic monastery (instead of going to the highest village, which is not the highest) and trekking down back to the town. You will have to leave in the morning to have enough time and make sure that the path back to town is in a good condition as it is very steep and scary. Don't go alone on this trek.
From Tabo, you can arrange taxi to Sagnam in Pin valley, walk and trek around in the village and to the monastery. It's also a magnificent place, but lodging/food will be very basic. In worst case you can ask the monastery or locals to sleep there. You can take a bus up to Kaza from here early in the morning.
Dheli-Manali-Leh is also possible within this timeframe, but in that case you will have to fly back from Leh. I personally got to 100km away from Keylong, because of a sudden snow storm blocked the road.
Recommend: climb from Keylong town up to the Shashur monastery. It is very scenic and the monastery is nice.
Also, you can do a one day side trip to Trilokinath in Pattan Valley. Again, amazing.
Actually, all the above treks and places mentioned above are little known or travelled but absolutely doable without a guide. Better to find somebody on the road to join for these treks. Although, I did them on my own and it was still very nice. Except the walk from Comic monastery - i do recommend going in a group of at least two.
In Parvati Valley, definitely try to visit Manikaram sikh bath and try the free meal. Place is like from some ancient tale...
I know these places are off the main tourist trails and tales but there are amazing.
If you are an experienced (!) motorcyclist, you can consider renting out a reliable bike in Delhi or even easier in Manali and do this trip on your own. Fuel and rent will add app GBP20 extra per day to your budget. Otherwise, basic budget on this trip (accommodation, food and bus) will be max GBP10 a day. As it is some of the most scenic are in the wrod, doing it on a bike would multiply the experience from this trip.
Another great reply! (Thanks also to cdtph :-)
As i like to be a planned person things have developed somewhat, plans currently are;
arrive Shimla 6th April and fly from Leh to Delhi on the 18th.
I still really want to do Stok Khangri so i would like to be in Leh by the 11th to try and arrange this as a 5 day expedition (I figure the other 4 days from Shimla to Leh [which ever route i take] plus a day in Leh should be enough aclimatisation???)
So; I know your really recomemd Spiti valley, and it does sound amazing. In your opinion, if i arrive Shimla on the 6th and wish to be in Leh by 11th at the latest, do i have enough time to go through Spiti (and take some of your recomendations) OR, would you advise simply heading via Manali?
Thank you warmly for your time and advice, it really is appreciated!
If you are planning to leave Delhi on 5/6th and be in Leh by 11th, best is to take a long bus ride direct from Delhi to Manali and skip Chandighar/Shimla (it's not that amazing anyway). You will not have enough time to go through Spiti. http://wikitravel.org/en/Leh#b
Better to stay in Manali 1 day before you head up to high altitude (right after Manali road goes up to 4000+). There is a nice sacred bath near Manali where you can relax.
Keylong (3000m) is a nice stop to trek and acclimatize as after the Rohtang pass (4000m). From Keylong, you can continue on a bus to Leh.
Note: buses are not necessarily less comfortable than jeep rides. Jeeps sometimes pick up locals too along the route and try to squeeze as many people in as possible. So, if you decide to take jeep, best is to negotiate in advance to make sure it will not be too crowded. Wiki says it costs app 1500R, try to find a reliable agent (it's hard) and make sure all details are firmly agreed.
If you don't have lodging in Delhi yet, I recommend Anouk hotel in Paharganj (Main Bazaar).
In Manali, best is to stay in New Manali. Up on the very top of the hill, there are a few new wooden houses with balconies, restaurants, agents, german bakeries and internet cafes.
- it is always safer to eat in a crowded place visited by only locals even if it looks very dirty, than eating at a tourist place.
- Cholera vaccination (oral) will give you some protection against stomach problems.
- try to avoid any stranger approaching you, even if it's a policeman and don't let them persuade you into anything. first few days, you will get surely cheated on your money but you will quickly learn how to deal the touts. Also, don't accept invitation from anybody, most notorious areas are Delhi, the golden triangle.
- accommodations (and many other things) are always negotiable, a reasonable rate for a room should never exceed 4-500R, but in more rural areas you can find a nice room for 2-300R.
- taxi from Delhi airport to Main Bazaar: max 250-300R (non-share, single taxi).
- meals in local restaurants: 30-100R, tourist 60-140R.
- fair half a day tricycle ride should be max 200R (don't let your driver recommend places, take you to restaurants, gem shops, etc., especially in Agra and Jaipur), better to negotiate price down aggressively and tip them if service is indeed ok)
- stay kind to people as they are just very poor, hence every penny counts for them
- best to stock up on toilet paper before you leave any main tourist towns.
If you happen to go to Agra, nearby town Fatherpur Sikri is a relief and a very nice place with good lodging.
Thats pretty much what i was thinking though i will train to Manali as im not so good on buses. Shame about Spiti but i get the feeling this trip will be amazing and once done, will be done again!
Great tips, thanks very much. I have travelled quite a bit, some poor areas too (Medan in Indonesia rings a bell!) so i know what you mean but will take extra care for sure.
So thank you very much again, il be noting this all down. Feel free to supply me with more tips ;-)
p.s. Im pretty sure your karma points get topped up for being so genuinly helpful like this
One more thing please..... Do you have details of Anoux Hotel, Delhi? I wouldnt mind booking in advance if possible
My mistake... it's called Anoop hotel: http://www.anoophotel.com/, try to ask for a refurbished room if available. The food they serve on the rooftop is not so good and overpriced but the view is great.
I don't think there is railway service to Manali, you can take only bus or taxi, but taxi will be not necessarily be more comfortable, just more expensive. In general, beside train, no need to book buses or taxis much in advance, there are regular services running to all destinations.
Have a very nice trip!