Chitkul is popularly known as the last inhabited village on the old Indo-Tibetan road within Indian boundaries. Rakcham is a village that falls between Sangla and Chitkul and is better known as the model village of the region. Chitkul is almost like a pilgrimage for those who dare to take this historic road. Reaching Chitkul is like reaching the pinnacle of a journey and why not. It is such a scenic little village that has managed to carve such a unique identity for itself.
Drive to Chitkul
We started our drive towards Chitkul after a leisurely breakfast at Banjara Camps in Sangla where we were staying. We intended to go beyond Chitkul as some adventurous people do manage to go, so we made no other plans for the rest of the day. As soon as we got out of Sangla the landscape started changing. We were driving with Baspa River flowing to our right. Every now and then we started meeting streams that were enthusiastically running towards the Baspa as if full of joy for the anticipated union. There were big and small bridges that we crossed. Each of these bridges was enchanting enough to stop and admire. To stand on top of the bridge and watch the river flow below you is like being a part of the river and yet not be. The sound of water against the rocks is like pure music.
What we found amazing was that each bridge had all the vital details mentioned on a board on either side of it. You know exactly what the water body is called if it is a Nallah, a River or a Rivulet along with the technical details of the bridge.
The colorful Buddhist flag not only added a flavor of devotion to the environment but also added a bit of vibrancy with their cheerful colors.
Once we crossed Rakcham, we started seeing lots of big and small rocks all around. It almost looked like we have reached the city of Stones, all we could see was stones and stones. Here and there hanging glaciers glistened in the sunshine.
Like I said, we wanted to go ahead of Chitkul village, but the village had no intentions of letting us go ahead. On the turn just outside Chitkul, our car got stuck in what looked like a small drain. Thanks to the local hotel and restaurant owners we could get the car moving. But abandoned our plans to go ahead as everyone said the road ahead is not so good and technically you can’t go beyond a checkpoint. We parked the car and started exploring the little village.
We came across the small wood and stone hut that is almost as famous as the Chitkul village itself. We saw the houses with their open storage that have doors but not necessarily the walls.
Bengal in Chitkul Himachal
As we walked past the row of hotels that were garishly painted in bright colors we could read boards in Bengali. We did not have to wait too long to hear Bengali. When we chatted with our guide, we were told that Bengalis travel a lot on this route and hence there is a market for Bengali hotels and restaurants in Chitkul. Now I know Bengalis and Gujaratis are two communities that travel a lot. But I did not expect them to create a mini Bengal in the remote Himalayan village of Chitkul. Call it the drive of a free market or call it the nature of India where every community has a stake in the other.
Walk along River Baspa in Chitkul
We took a long walk along the river that seems to descend from the snow-capped Himalayan peaks. People of Chitkul village could be seen wearing their ubiquitous green Kinnauri caps. Be it the woman tending the field or the man taking the donkeys for a walk.
I walked through the sandy path to reach the edge of Baspa – that was flowing like a girl in her adolescent years – not yet aware of the ways of the world and full of hope and optimism. The edges of Baspa River had some smooth stones in various colors. I remember I counted the colors and there were more than 7 colors not counting the various shades and patterns they had on them.
I sat by the river listening to its roar, its joy, its flow and watching it maneuver itself around the big rocks. It was such a peaceful experience even with noisy tourists all around me. I still get a little peaceful when I close my eyes and think of those few moments of sitting by the River Baspa in Chitkul.
Flowers at Chitkul
I was there in July and we could see quite a few colorful flowers at Chitkul village.
Rakcham – the model village
On our way back we stopped at Rakcham or Rakchham to admire the neat and clean modern village. Rakcham is at a height, a good 100 meters or so above Baspa and you get a good top down view of the River. Bridges from here looked like small sticks across the river that itself looked liked a much smaller version of itself compared to what we saw at Chitkul.
Near Rakcham, we found the pine trees that give the Pine Nuts – a product that you only find in Sangla Valley or Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh.
Watch the video of roaring Baspa River
Watch the video clip of the roaring Baspa river.
I was back in Sangla in my tent next to Baspa, with lovely memories from the trip to Chitkul.
Travel Tips for Chitkul
- Chitkul is roughly 25 km’s from Sangla – the main hub of Baspa Valley in Himachal Pradesh.
- There are only budget hotels available for stay. So plan your trip accordingly.
- Food available is also basic so if you are finicky about your food, carry it with you.
- There is a Himachal Transport Bus that connects Chitkul to Rekong Peo and passes via Sangla. Check the latest timings if you intend taking the bus. I would recommend taking a cab so that you can stop by whenever nature beckons you.
- Chitkul is at a height of 3450 meters so the air does get thin. Do not over exert yourself.
- It is colder than Sangla, keep an extra layer of woolens.
Recommend you to read following Places to visit in Himachal Pradesh.