(10 nights 11 days)
Let Banjara lead you into a world full of mysteries and unknown places where time has stood still for thousands of years untouched by man. Your journey begins from where the story of apple in India begins. Thanedar (ahead of Shimla) is a lovely little hamlet where Mr. Stokes brought first apple sapling into India from Philadelphia. This is your first destination from where you will be entering into the unknown world free from all the daily routine of our city life. Explore the forests around Thanedar. From here, we go on to the amazing valley in Sangla where we get some of the most beautiful apples in the country and probably the world. Sangla valley opens for 6-7 months before going into hibernation for the winter beneath layers of snow. The place boasts some of the most beautiful flora and fauna and a simply breathtaking setting beside the Baspa River and with views of towering snow capped mountains.
Revel in the lush green beauty of the valley before moving onto the barren landscape of Spiti known as a forbidden country a few years back. Visit the 1008 years old monastery in Tabo or drive to the highest village Gete near Kaza or drive to the serene lake of Chandratal that changes its colours with changing sun position during the day. Experience the feeling of being on top of the world, literally, before descending to Manali for a slice of civilization albeit very briefly. We climb once again toward Jalori pass and stay at Sojha to unwind in the vicinity of Great Himalayan National Park before getting ready to face the world back home.
- Day 1: Chandigarh- Thanedar- 195 kms/ 6-7 hrs Meet at Chandigarh railway station at 1130 hrs. Drive to Thanedar via Barog, Shimla and Narkanda. Reach Thanedar in the evening. Depending on your travel time, you will be able to see either apple blossoms or apples. Evening around bonfire. Night stay in Banjara Retreat.
- Day 2: Thanedar Sangla- 165 kms/ 6 hrs Visit Hatu peak early in the morning. The peak offers excellent views of Shrikhand Mahadev peaks. Back to Thanedar for breakfast, Leave for Sangla around mid-morning. We drive down towards Sutlej River. We drive along the river till Karcham from where once again, we start climbing up the mountains to reach Sangla. Reach Banjara camps situated ahead of Sangla. Evening around a bonfire. Overnight stay at the camp.
- Day 3: Sangla Visit Chitkul (3,450M) - 20kms A day visit to the Chitkul village. This is the last village on the old Indo-Tibetan trade route. From here, we can hike up to Nagasthi, the last border outpost that civilians are allowed to. It is a lovely 2.5 kms walk along a stream. Lunch along the glacier fed mountain stream. Drive back to Camp in the afternoon. Rest of the day at leisure. You could also try your hand at rappelling, rock climbing or river crossing. Evening around a bonfire. Night stay in tents.
- Day 4: Sangla-Hike to Rakcham Today, we go for the signature walk of the valley. Drive to Rakcham village where we cross the river and begin our hike back to the camp. This is a 6-7 kms long hike through thick forests, open skies, streams and walk by the river. Reach back early afternoon. Lunch at camp. Rest after lunch else, try your hand at Rock climbing, rappelling or river crossing. You could also go for a short walk in the surrounding hills. Night stay at Banjara camp and Retreat.
- Day 5: Sangla Tabo 200 km / 10 hrs Today, we leave behind verdant, forest clad mountains as we go over the tree line towards the Spiti region. Stop briefly at Rekong peo to enjoy the fantastic views of Kinner Kailash peak. After driving for about 5 hrs on NH 22, just short of Yangthang, we take a detour, to visit the picturesque Nako Lake and have a picnic lunch by the lakeside. Post –lunch we drive on through breath taking, mountain desert terrain to reach Tabo. Night stay in a guest house.
- Day 6: Tabo- Kaza via Dhankar Visit Tabo monastery early in the morning. Participating in the morning prayers is an experience in itself. Post-breakfast drive down to Dhankar Monastery. Dhankar, the traditional capital of Spiti, sits pretty on a hilltop. The fort here overlooks the Spiti valley and it was used as a jail in olden days. Today, more than 160 lamas reside here. A statue of Dhyan Buddha where four complete figures of Buddha sit back to back is the main attraction of this more than seven-century old monastery. Move on to visit the glorious Tabo Gompa; reputed to be the oldest (an inscription on a wall here indicates, it was founded in AD 996) continuously functioning Buddhist monastery in India and the Himalayas, with its original decoration and iconographic program intact.
Carry on to Kaza where we stay for the night at Banjara retreat.
- Day 7: Rangrik- Ki Gompa – Kibber – Gete – Rangrik After breakfast, visit Ki monastery and Kibber village. Ki gompa is a Gelugpa sect monastery. Its hilltop position points to a post-thirteenth century construction. The three storied structure consists largely of storage rooms at the bottom level, while the middle floor houses the Dukhang- the assembly hall- and the uppermost floor has another temple and the head Lama’s quarters, on one side of an open terrace. The greatest wealth of Ki Gompa lies in its collection of ‘Thangkas’ salvaged with difficulty from the devastating raids of the Dogars and the Sikhs in the 19th century.
From here a scenic drive takes you into the pasture country of Kibber. The pastures are spread over hundreds of square kilometers. Kibber is small village and is the take off point for the popular trek to Tso Moriri in Ladakh. Further up six kilometers from Kibber, we drive up to a still smaller village of Gete. Consisting of just six houses, it boasts of being the highest village in Asia connected by road. Drive back to the retreat for a late lunch and spend rest of the day at leisure.
- Day 8: Kaza- Chandratal- Manali- 8-9 hrs drive and 2 hrs hike Leave early today and drive towards Chandratal via Kunzum la. From Batal we take a short detour to drive to Chandratal (depending on weather and road conditions). Chandratal or moon lake is a stunningly beautiful lake situated at a height of more than 14000 ft. The lake changes colours according to sunlight/ daylight reflected from lake. Spend the afternoon close to lake and walk back to the campsite for the night.
- Day 9: Manali- Sojha- 4-5 hrs Hike back to the road and drive back to Batal and on to Manali. Reach Manali in the afternoon. Rest of the day at leisure in Manali. Night stay in hotel.
- Day 10: Sojha Sojha is another stunningly beautiful hamlet flanked by Oak and Cedar forest. You could choose to relax at retreat, read, go for a short hike to the village else we drive up to Jalori pass (a short 5 km drive) and hike up to Raghupur fort (3 kms). Raghupur fort offers fantastic views of the valley. Hike back in time for lunch. Rest of the afternoon at leisure.
- Day 11: Drop at Chandigarh- 8-9 hrs .