By mistake, we took the Singla-Chitkul highway. It turned out to be one of the greatest mistakes on this road trip. The valley in Singla-Chitkul highway is known as Singla Valley, also known as Basper Valley.
Rakcham is one of the villages on the Singla-Chitkul highway. The highway is situated in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, bordering Tibet, China. In the intersection, one is the Singla-Chitkul highway and the other is to Reckong Peo. Drive on the highway to Reckong Peo that follows the Sutlej River, it takes you to the closest border between India and China. This road connects to Spiti Valley.
Driving on the Singla-Chitkul highway, the yellow-red landscape reminds us it’s late autumn in Baspa Valley. Crystal-clear turquoise Baspa river wounds through the valley as a scarf protecting apple orchards on the river banks. At the dead-end of the Singla-Chitkul highway is a well-known village Chitkul. Like any cliff highway in Asia, Singla-Chikul road is tolerable as it’s condition is fine. Some part of the road is paved and potholes are here and there. Baspa Valley is most suitable for growing apples. Villages are situated on the hill or the other side of the Baspa river. Homestays are available almost in every village. You can spend two days driving on this highway and explore all the villages. Support local homestays! 🙂
Rakcham is only 9 km from the dead-end village Chitkul. The guesthouse we walked into was about to lock-down in few days for winter. We appeared on their doorstep unexpectedly. The manager was not expecting any guests. We were too late for hiking. It’s perfect to come in the summer days and early autumn for hiking and camping. Rakcham and the villages on the Singla-Chitkul highway are for nature-lovers. There are no luxurious facilities, shops, or food here.
A Hindi film, Liar’s Dice, is set in Himachal Pradesh, with few scenes from the Sangla Chitkul highway. It’s a sad story but a great introduction to the tip of the iceberg. Despite guesthouses and hotels mushroomed on this highway, locals are actually benefiting very less from tourism. So locals still opt to work in big towns.
The trail to the riverbank
Enveloped in the valley, an enormous mountain behind Rakcham protect it from any snowstorm. Half-day is enough to explore the Rakcham village and the riverbank. It’s muddy and rocky, about 2 km to the riverbank. The trail is long enough to sweat out; I was peeling layers of winter clothes like an onion. The trail takes you through barns, apple orchards, and goat stables. It’s a tranquil path to experience autumn in India. Cows gaze in mini meadows.
Apple Harvest Season
October and November are the apple harvest season in Himachal Pradesh. Kinnaur apples are shipped across the country. Peeping through the fences, mounds of rotten red apples on the ground, I was looking around for the orchard’s owner to buy some freshly-picked apples. Crunchy-juicy, exactly like Fuji apple. You will enjoy as much apple as you like while being here. Autumn season is also for berries. I am not sure are they edible. Blue and red berries are for plucking.
In the cold weather, I definitely did not want to dip my feet into the river. The rocky trail to the river is where the orchards and goat stables. On summer days, temporary camps are set-up on the riverbanks.
Although Rakcham is in a valley, the early-winter cold air landed in the evening. We circled the campfire to warm up. The next morning, take a short walk on the highway :).
Best Time to Visit
March to June is the best time to visit and the best time for camping by the river bank.
July to September is the monsoon season, with high possibilities of landslides but it brings greenery to the landscape.
Mid-September to early December is a good time to visit. The cool air comes down to the valley but the daytime still warm.
December to February is the winter season. Roads could be closed based on weather conditions. Basper Valley receives snow in this season with low temperature -10 Celsius.
Baspar Valley 2 – 5 Days
Rakcham 1 – 2 Days
How to visit Kinnaur Valley?
Railway & Airport in Shimla
The closest railway station is the Kalka Railway Station located in Shimla. Shimla Airport in Jubberhatti is the closest and Manali Airport is second.
HRTC Bus Shimla to Sangla Bus The daily from Shimla to Sangla starts at 6:30 am. The last stop is Chitkul. It reaches Sangla at 5 pm.
HRTC Bus Shimla to Reckong Peo Bus starts at 5:00 am daily
HRTC Bus Reckong Peo to Chitkul Bus 9:30 am & 12 noon.
Car Rental with driver is the best way to explore the Kinnaur Valley.
Scooter and Bike rental are at Shimla/Manila. They are not available in the Kinnaur Valley.