Located in the dizzying heights of the Himalayas, with passes that remain closed for six months linking them with the rest of the world, Kinnaur till recent past was a forbidden land. Only a chosen few were granted permission to visit this secret world, officials, Moravian missionaries who settled here in 1853 and a few mountaineers. Now this area has been opened for the daring and adventurous to discover what had been hidden from the world for centuries.
From the riotous green of the Sangla Valley filled with orchards of apricots, peaches, chilgozas and apples to the magnificent desolation of the Hangrang Valley, Mother Nature’s portrait is an ever changing one in Kinnaur. This land lying on the ancient trade route between India and Tibet, ringed by the majestic mountain of the Himalayan and Dhauladhar range is the land of plenty. The gushing rivers of Kinnaur abound in Trout-the angler’s prize catch, their waters have over the centuries chiseled beautiful gorges across this picturesque land and nurtured one of the most unique societies on there banks. In the lush land live the descendants of the Kinners-the demi gods of the Hindu pantheon, whose deeds have been immortalized in epics and the poems of ancient Sanskrit poets.
Surrounded by the Tibet to the east, in the northeast corner of Himachal Pradesh, about 235 km from Shimla the district is tremendously beautiful having the three high mountains ranges i.e. Zaskar, Greater Himalayas and Dhauladhar, enclosing valleys of Sutlej, Spiti, Baspa and their tributaries. The much religious Shivlinga lies at the peak of Kinner Kailash mountain. The beautiful district was opened for the outsiders in 1989. The old Hindustan-Tibet road passes through the Kinnaur valley along the bank of river Sutlej and finally enters Tibet at Shipki La Pass. And it is not only the scenic beauty which appeals to the young and old alike but also the life styles of the people, their culture, heritage, customs and traditions.
Before India’s independence, Kinnaur formed part of the erstwhile Bushar state. After independence, Kinnaur formed the Chini Tehsil of Mahasu district. As part of the reorganization of border areas, the Kinnaur district was formed on May 1, 1960, to enable speedy development of this area. Kinnaur is home to some of lndia’s oldest traditions and legends. The Pandava brothers are said to have spent several years of their exile in these tracts- an episode from the epic Mahabharata. Ancient texts have gone to the extent of placing the people of Kinnaur-the Kinners-as halfway between men and gods. The highland tribes here are simple, hard working, honest and very welcoming to the tourists.
Due to the Geographical conditions Kinnaur has long winter from October to May (the snowy season) and Summer from June to September. From April to May is Spring and September to October is Autumn. Only the Baspa valley, lower region of the Satluj valley and the area south of the Great Himalaya receives monsoon rains, while in the upper areas monsoon showers progressively decreases.
Places of Interest
Bhabha Valley: The beautiful valley along Bhaba River is an important tourist spot. It is a link road to the valley, which originates at Wangtu. It has a reservoir lake and alpine meadows and is famous for the trek route to Pin Valley in Spiti.
Nichar: This village is situated between Taranda and Wangtu on the left bank of Satluj about 5 kms above Wangtu. The scenery is enchanting and the climate is noted for its mildness. In the thick forests and rocky glen from this place downward goral and thar antelopes abound in. Black and red bears are also seen in the higher and colder portions of the range. The village deity is goddess Ukha.
MOORANG: Situated above the left bank of Satluj at some distance from the confluence of the Tirang and 39 kms away from the Kalpa. The location is very beautiful and approach to this picturesque village is through apricot orchard. The dell is encircled by the lofty mountains on every side, except westward open to the Satluj, on the bank of which there is an old fort believed to be built by Pandavas. The fort has a square structure situated on a knoll overlooking the Satluj. Its main gate is approachable by a detached ladder. It has a flat roof. The local deity is Urming and there are three structures dedicated to the deity each existing in Thwaring, Garmang and Shilling. Generally these are empty as the ark of the deity remains in the fort. On a sacred day the ark is taken to the above named places. The ark has got 18 ‘mukh’, made of silver, gold and brass. The 18 mukh represents the 18 days of the great epic Mahabharat
Karchham: Located at the confluence of the Sutlej and Baspa rivers, this place is the start of the picturesque Baspa Valley of which Sangla is the largest settlement.
Sangla: Situated on the right bank of the Baspa river, Sangla is famous for its high fertile soil, at an elevation of 2621 m above the sea level and falls at a distance of approx 17 kms from Karcham. It is built on a slope with the house rising one above the other; the scene being closed by the gigantic Raldang peaks towering behind. The forest scenery all-around and the eternal snow peaks are picturesque. Journey from Karcham onwards is enjoyable and adventurous throughout the valley. The natural scenery all around and the eternal snow view are picturesque and charming. It is located in the famous Baspa valley. The whole of the Baspa valley is one of the prettiest valleys mainly due to its flat terrain and green vegetation on the slopes which are not very steep.
Rakchham: Rakchham famous for its scenic beauty, is situated on the right bank of the river Baspa. It is about 13 kms from Sangla on the way to Chitkul. Its name is derived from “Rak” a stone and “Cham” a bridge. It is said that in the earlier time there was a natural stone bridge over the Baspa River hence the name of the village. The site of the village is striking at the western extremity of a glen, and at the base a huge mass of bare rock, which rises abruptly in numerous black spires above the village.
Chitkul: The last and the highest village in the Sangla valley. Chitkul, 28 kms from Sangla, is noted for its alpine meadows and snowscapes. It has a rest house and is placed at an altitude of 3450 meters above sea level. This is the last and highest village in the Baspa valley. It is situated on the right bank of the Baspa river. There is a road along the left bank from Karchham. There are three temples of local goddess Mathi, the main one said to have been constructed about 500 years ago by a resident of Garhwal. The square ark of the goddess, is made of walnut wood and is covered with clothes and surmounted by a tuft of yak tail. Two poles called bayanga are inserted into it by means of which it is carried.
Rechong Peo: Reckong Peo is situated at an altitude of 2670 m from the sea level, located 235 km from Shimla. It is the District Headquarter having a panoramic view of Kinner Kailash. Kinner Kailash mountain is regarded as one of the mythical homes of Lord Shiva, here is a 79 feet high rock formation that resembles Sivalinga. This Sivalinga changes the colour as the day passes. Also visible on the stretch is the peak of Raldang (5499 m). Reckong Peo has many hotels and rest houses. There is a Buddhist Monasteries in the Reckong Peo: At a distance of 3 km from Rechong Peo, Kothi has a temple dedicated to the Goddess Chandika Devi. Set against a backdrop of mountains and groves of deodar, the temple has a special architectural style and fine sculpture.
Kalpa: Kalpa is situated at an altitude of 2759 m from the sea level, on the old Hindustan Tibet Road at a distance of 260 km from Shimla. Earlier it was the District Headquarter of Kinnaur. It is 14 km and half an hour’s drive from District Headquarter Reckong Peo. It has all the characteristics of a heritage village. Kalpa came into prominence in the wake of British Governor General Lord Dalhousie’s visit in th 19th century. The Narayan-Nagani temple is an exemplary of local craftmanship. There are couple of Buddhist monasteries at Kalpa including the Hu-Bu-Ian-Car Gompa, said to be founded it by Rinchensang-Po (950-1055AD).Kalpa is dramatically located close to the foot of 6050 meter high Kinner Kailash. This is the legendary winter home of Shiva. This is a spectacular sight early in the morning as the rising sun touches the snowy peaks with crimson and gold light.
Ribba: Situated at 18 km from Powari this place is known for its vineyards and local wine “Angoori’ made from grapes. It is at an altitude of 2745 meters above sea level. About 26 km from Powari is Jhangi, where the inner border is located. From this point the famous Kinner Kailash Parikrama Trek starts via Morang, Thangi and Kunocharang villages and entering Chitkul village in Sangla Valley. Perched at a height of 2837 meters is Puh, which has a rest house and hotel facilities. One can see lush green fields, orchards of apricot vineyards and groves of almond trees, en route Puh.
Leo: About 105 kms from Reckong Peo pearched on small rocky eminence, on the right bank of Spiti river, and at the confluence of the Lipak torrent flowing from the west is the hqrs. of sub-tehsil Hangrang in Puh sub-division. At the east of it is an insulated rock once surmounted by a fort, now in ruins considerable It occupies a slip of soil embosomed by sterile masses of the earth glowing under the ardour of a tropical sun. From such a situation the climate has acquired a delicious softness.
Lippa: Situated near the left bank of Taiti stream. The grass of this village is said to be found to be very nourishing to cattle and horses. Ibex are said to be found in the nearby forest. There are three Buddhist temples dedicated to Galdang Chhoikar, Dunguir and Kangyur. Apart from the Buddhist temples there is yet another old sanctuary dedicated to Tangtashu, a local deity.
Puh: Puh is locally pronounced Spuwa and is tehsil hqrs. It is 71 kms from Reckong Peo. It is situated above the national highway-22 having all modern amenities as well as green fields, vineyards, apricots, almond and grape orchards enhance its beauty. The local god is called Dabla, who neither has any dwelling nor possesses an ark. The only manifestation of the deity is a pole with a small idol set on its upper portion and adorned with yak tail hair and long pieces of coloured cloth. The whole being called Fobrang, it is occasion brought to the Santhang.
Namgya: Namgya is situated on the left bank of the Satluj river about 2 kms above the confluence of the Spiti river with the Satluj. Closest village from the Indo-China border; Shipki La Pass is just 13 kms from this village. It is surrounded by frightful barrenness and desolation, though close to the habitation on the opposite bank of a rivulet can be seen field of barley, buckweat, turnips and a few vines and apricots.There is a Buddhist temple named Lagang and four local goddess namely Chola, Bushahru, Dabla and Kuldeo Narain.
Buddhist Monasteries of Tashigang Gompa and Tiasang: It is accessible from Nangya, after a little diversion from Khab, on the National Highway 22. Tilasang is close to Koa, 12 kms short of Yangthang and has facilities for visitors to stay.
Nako: Situated above 3 kms above the Hangrang valley road and is 100 kms from Kalpa on the western direction of the huge mountains of Pargial. This is the highest village in the valley and the existence of lake formed out of the masses of the ice and snow above adds beauty to the village. The lake is fringed with willows and populars. Yaks, horses and asses are reared here in abundance. Local village deity is Deodum and another Lagang temple with several idols exist here. There is a staying hut for visitors.There are small, but significant Buddhist temples and a rock is regarded to have the imprints of the saint Padmasambhava. This is the base for the trek to pargial peak and is en-route to the Thashigang monastery, where an image is said to grow hair.