About 200 kms away from Shimla is the strikingly beautiful district of Kinnaur, where the icy waters of the river Sutlej and its tributaries have carved deep gorges through the high ranges. The landscape varies from the lush green orchards of the picturesque Sangla valley of the stark magnificence of the Hangrang valley.
Kinnaur, the north - eastern frontier district of Himachal Pradesh is a secluded region, rugged and mountainous and lies on both the banks of the Sutlej. It commands uniqueness on account of peculiarities of language, history and natural phenomenon. The erstwhile Chini tehsil, which during the princely regime, was a part of the Bushahar State, adjoins western Tibet along the Zanskar mountains.
Legendary Kinners, as a distinct race, somewhere between human beings and birds or with a human body and the head of a horse or vice versa. The epics describe them as heavenly musicians or celestial choisters. Such creatures are supposed to inhabit a semi - celestial region high in the Himalayas where earthly saints who have attained perfection consort with super - humen beings. They are great singers and dancers and they depict sorrows of their hard life in singing and dancing. More than a hundred festivals are celebrated in a year. It is believed that Pandavas spent here some time during exile in Kinnaur and from here they moved towards the Kailash Parvat.
It is very cold during the winters here but the summers are pleasant. Being a dry zone, there is no monsoon here. Therefore, the ideal time to visit Kinnaur is from May to October.
Places of Interest
Lippa Asrang Sanctuary
Lippa Asrang Sanctuary lies in Kinnaur District, 28km from Morang, the nearest town. Access is via Kalpa to Jangi, and onward by foot (26km). The area under this Sanctuary is 2,953ha using digitised maps with an altitude ranges from 4,000m to 5,022m. Much of this high-altitude sanctuary is a plateau of barren cold desert. Temperatures range from 10 C to 15 C. Mean annual rainfall is 226mm One farmstead and seven summer settlements are located inside the sanctuary. One village, nine summer settlements and a few farmsteads are located in adjacent areas, with a total population of 500 people. The area is not yet open for tourism. Inner Line permits are required to visit the area, and foreign nationals are not ordinarily allowed entry. Three rest houses are located outside the sanctuary.
Rupi Bhabha Sanctuary
Rupi Bhabha Sanctuary lies in Kinnaur District, 40km from Rampur Bushahr, the nearest town. Access is via Chauhra and onward by foot (3km), or by road to Kathgaon which is inside the sanctuary. The area under this sanctuary is 85,414ha using digitised maps with an altitude ranges from 909m to 5,650m. Rupi Bhabha is part of a much larger protected areas complex, with Great Himalayan and Pin Valley national parks located on its western and northern boundaries, respectively. The north of the sanctuary is covered by glaciers. Drainage is south-wards via three main streams, Sorang Gad, Salaring Khad and Wangar Gad. Temperatures range from 10 to 20 C. Mean annual rainfall is 45mm and mean annual snowfall 300mm.Fifteen villages are located within the sanctuary, with a total population of 2,420 people. There are also three farmsteads and three summer settlements. An Inner Line permit is required to enter the sanctuary.
Located in the Pooh sub-division of district Kinnaur. The lake is surrounded by willow and poplar trees - and the village seems to be half buried by the lake's borders. On the water's northern side, are four Buddhist temples with stucco images and murals. Near Nako is a footprint-like impression described to the saint Padmasambhava.
Karchham (1,899 m), located at the confluence of the Sutlej and Baspar rivers, is the start of the picturesque Baspar Valley of which Sangla is the largest settlement.
Sangla is 18 km from Karchham and is perched at a height of 2880 meters. A link road that goes off the National Highway into the Baspar valley offers an enchanting spot at every curve. There are saffron fields, orchards, and higher up, as the road climbs the steep, there are lush green alpine meadows.
Rakchham is situated on the bank of Baspa River, at an altitude of 2900 meters, and is famous for its scenic beauty. It is about 13 km from Sangla on the way to Chitkul. The last and the highest village in this valley, Chitkul, 28 km 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. Powari, 70 km from Rampur, is the last major stop, on the Hindustan-Tibet Road.
Located 240 km from Shimla and 7 km from Powari, Rechong Peo is the headquarters of the Kinnaur district. It is placed at an altitude of 2670 meters, has a rest house and hotels, and offers a fine view of the Kinner Kailash.
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.
At a distance of 14 km from Powari is Kalpa, the main village of the district. It is at an altitude of 2768 meters. Across the river, facing Kalpa, is the majestic spectacle of the Kinner Kailash range
Riba is at a distance of 18 km from Powari and 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.
Namgya is the closest village from the Indo-China border, and the Shipki La Pass is just 13 km from this village. The fine Buddhist Monastery of Tashigang Gompa is at the confluence of the Sutlej and Spiti rivers. It is accessible from Nangya, after a little diversion from Khob, on the National Highway 22. Another monastery, Tilasang, is close to Koa, 12 km short of Yangthang and has facilities for visitors to stay. At a height of 3662 meters is Nako, a little off the National Highway 22 along a link road just short of Yangthang. It is a scenic village and the largest in the desolate Hangrang valley.
Local Fairs and Festivals
There are many local fairs and festivals like the Ladarcha fair (July-August) in Kaza, Tribal Fair (August) in Keylong, Tribal Festival (October-November) in Rekongpeo, Phulaich Festival (August-October) in Kastiar.
Kinnaur at a Glance :
Area : 6533 sq. km, Languages : Hindi, Himachali, Best time to Visit : May to October