The most searched question on the internet when we talk about the Spiti Valley is about road conditions. How are the roads in Lahaul Spiti valley? Is it safe to drive or ride? What kind of vehicles can do the Spiti valley circuit and the list goes on. In this article, I would answer all your questions related to roads in Spiti valley.
This article is specifically about the road conditions in Spiti valley and not the kind of vehicles you might prefer to cover this circuit.
My avid readers who have been following me know that I started my Spiti tour from Jaipur and returned via the Manali route. I would tell you precisely the road conditions for the complete Spiti circuit from Shimla to Kaza and then return from Manali.
Jaipur to Chandigarh
I started from Jaipur in the evening and we were planning to reach Ambala by night. From Jaipur, you need to get on the Jaipur Delhi highway which is national highway 48, in short NH48. It’s been called an expressway but at the time of writing this article, I would say it is more of a highway with some broken patches, not many though.
Having said that during monsoons certain patches of roads are filled with water to ride/drive carefully. But most of the highway till Gurgaon is fine with certain exceptions of traffic jams.
Now you do not have to take this highway all the way to Delhi. I don’t even recommend taking the outer peripheral. Rather I prefer to take the Kotputli Ambala expressway which is NH 152D. This is what I call an expressway. A four-lane road on each side with a perfectly built road.
The only issue is that you won’t be able to take a lot of pit stops here. The road stretches for long distances and there are no midway stops or typical roadside restaurants or Dhaba’s, unlike the national highways.
There are food and shelter complexes which are being built within the 20 to 30 KM range but those are not operational as of August 2022. The structures are there but there is no one except the national highways authority personnel. Seems like it would take time to get these rest/stay/facilities structure to get operational.
So stack some food and water and enough fuel to make it from Kotputli to Ambala. The distance between them is 320 KM. Off course, you can stop at the layover lanes of these rest/facilities structures which are not operational if you do not want to drive the distance to straighten your back and take a 10,15 minutes break.
Once you reach Ambala you need to take the Ambala Chandigarh expressway. This is a 35 KM expressway which is beautifully built and even though you might encounter traffic you won’t stop as it’s constantly in motion.
The problem before reaching Chandigarh is with the road right in front of Decathlon Zirakpur. The road is under construction and you might face slow stationary traffic as there is a traffic light as well that takes you to Panchkula road which is the way to Shimla.
Now, remember this condition is as of August 2022. I am sure once the construction is done it would be easy to pass through Zirakpur to Panchkula.
Panchkula to Shimla – Roads in Lahaul spiti valley
NOTE*: Do not enter Chandigarh, or else you will be wasting your time. Divert to Panchkula and then take the Kalka Shimla highway known as NH 22.
The road conditions are good, not excellent though but good. After crossing Panchkula, post 20 to 25KM you can see the gradual incline suggesting that the altitude is increasing and you are entering the foothills of numerous starting valleys.
I went in the month of Monsoon so we did see some tumbling stones that came on the road and there were a few diversions where a single lane was used for dual incoming traffic. The road condition is however good in most of the stretch.
From March to June which is an ideal time for new travellers to explore Spiti, you would find roads in Lahaul spiti valley ideal.
Once you reach Shimla you can stay there for a night and get acclimatized to avoid getting hit by AMS, aka acute mountain sickness.
Roads in Lahaul Spiti valley post-Shimla
Now the fun starts. The roads in Lahaul spiti valley actually count from Shimla for me. Ideally, they should count after crossing Kinnaur valley, but the roads in Lahaul spiti valley are nearly identical to roads from Shimla to Kinnaur.
Once you cross Shimla, you will cross small towns such as Kufri, Theog, Shilaru & Narkanda. These towns are connected by beautifully built roads by our own border road organization (BRO) and maintained by them and the ITBP together.
These roads through the mountains are fun to ride/drive on. Roads in Lahaul Spiti valley are fine and are amazingly maintained.
After crossing small towns such as Theog, and Narkanda you will enter Kinnaur valley. The roads again are built nicely. Fun to ride on. Slight dangerous though as you will find a lot of boards with warnings saying “Watch out for falling rocks”.
Even when I crossed Kinnaur valley on my way to Chitkul, I found a lot of fallen stones and rocks. However, if the road is blocked BRO comes to the rescue and clears the route ASAP.
Once you reach Karcham, till which the road condition is excellent you will have to take a detour to Chitkul village passing through Sangla. The road from Karcham to Chitkul is a single road not too wide. There are some rough patches and this 30 km stretch will take approximately 1.5 hours as you would be driving very carefully.
Roads in the Lahaul spiti route are indeed adventurous. Always have spare time on your hand. We had to stop at Bhabhanagar for 2 hours because BRO was clearing up the road. Typical stone falls!
Chitkul to Tabo – Roads in Lahaul spiti valley
While returning from Chitkul you will have to reach Karcham again taking that dangerous Sangla road. I recommend starting early. Spiti valley starts from Sumdo to be clear. Before Sumdo there is a patch of road which is broken and BRO is still working on it. This rough patch will take a considerable amount of time as it has few water crossings as well.
This Sumdo patch is the only one that I found troublesome as there are no Damar roads. It is mostly sand and stones. Something like the image below.
One good thing is that from Khab Sangam bridge Satluj river no longer is with you. Now it’s the Spiti river that flows along with you. Roads in Lahaul Spiti valley now start getting more and more treacherous.
After Nako there is again a small single road till Tabo that has small patches that are sand and stones and no damar.
Most of the roads till Tabo where we stayed tho are good.
From Tabo to Kaza again most of the road is good but there are some patches and water crossings too. I would say if you are staying at Tabo start early and try to reach Kaza by afternoon. It’s just 48 KM.
Roads in Kaza are fine. We found road conditions in Spiti valley good till Losar village from Kaza. Having said that If you go to an iconic place like the highest post office in the world at Hikkim, you will find the roads broken and the same patches of sand and stones. Kind of like the image below that we clicked when we were going to Hikkim.
The condition of roads in Lahaul spiti valley will always surprise you as this region is prone to water crossings and water coming from the mountain with a little bit of rain always breaks the road.
Kaza to Manali – Roads in Lahaul spiti valley
For the people going for the first time, welcome to Lahaul and Spiti valley nightmare. After Kaza and just before Kunzum pass the road is excellent. You will have fun riding till Losar Khas. Everything is good the roads are awesome and the mobile network works amazingly.
Once you start climbing Kunzum pass, the networks go away. No mobile network is present. From the foothills of Kunzum pass till Gramhu which is approximately 60 KM, be ready for the adventure of a lifetime.
You won’t get a damar road will Gramphu. Broken roads, dangerous roads, brutal and risky waterfall, and no mobile network. So if you get stuck you will have to wait for someone to show up.
We got stuck at Chatru after crossing Batal.
The worst part is that at some patches there is no sand and stones road. There are only stones on which the water flows. It is tough for new travellers to cover this route if they do not have riding/driving experience.
This is the toughest 60 KM of the roads in Lahaul spiti valley.
You will need experience navigating and riding/driving through this patch of roads.
Conditions of roads in Lahaul spiti valley will always be like this. This is because even if the roads are being built there will be water flow and heavy rain to wash the roads in the Spiti river.
Once you cover this treacherous route till Gramphu, then it’s a cloudy ride till Manali. Roads in Lahaul spiti valley are only tough in this Kunzum till Gramphu section. Rest its ease!
The addition of the Atal tunnel that takes you to Palcham without climbing the tough roads on Rohtang pass is awesome. You can check out my above Vlog to witness the Atal tunnel.
Once you are back in Manali it’s a cakewalk till Chandigarh and then till Jaipur again.
This sums up folks about the conditions of roads in Lahaul spiti valley. If you have any questions please leave them in the comment below.