These 7 Spiti Valley camping locations will allow you to camp and enjoy the starry nights for free!
A solo-motorcycle expedition in Spiti Valley is itself an adventure. And the idea of camping in Spiti Valley, rather than opting for the safety and comfort of a guest house, is an adventure to another level.
Unlike other parts of the Himalayas, in Spiti Valley, you can’t think of camping out in the wild, away from civilizations (see my Spiti Valley photos to understand what I am talking about). Gusty winds and an unfriendly terrain make it too tough.
I remember when I left for my solo motorcycle expedition here, I had no intention to do camping throughout the journey. I brought a tent with me to try camping in Chandratal, and that was all.
I ended up camping in Spiti Valley the first night (in a town called Arphu) because I was struck with the idea of sleeping somewhere quieter than the likes of Shimla and Rampur. I needed a place which was not bustling with tourists, and Arphu fit the description. But since Arphu had no guest houses, camping was the only possibility.
Moving forward, as I camped one night after the other, it started feeling convenient and became a habit. Camping not only helped me stay away from popular tourist towns throughout the Shimla-Kaza-Manali route but also saved a lot of money.
So if you too are planning a Spiti Valley trip, I recommend you try camping. But as I said above, camping there is a lot different than camping in Manali or some other place in the Himalayas because of inhospitable conditions. So be prepared.
Now let’s move further and talk about…
Camping In Spiti Valley
The 7 locations where I camped during my Spiti Valley tour for free are:
Also read: Best camping tents in India
Though there are more places for camping in Spiti Valley, these are the 7 tried and tested locations (in red on the map below) where I happened to camp during my trip.
Camping here was free and much safer, as compared to doing it out in the wild.
This is moreover the same Spiti Valley itinerary I followed during my trip.
While riding and camping in Spiti Valley, remember that this is one of the most adventurous places in the Himalayas. Having said that, some degree of preparation is necessary before your trip. Read my tips for Spiti Valley to get an idea of what to expect there.
Now, let’s get started with discussing these 7 best Spiti Valley camping places in detail…
If you are driving from Shimla, ‘Arphu’ – a small town near Rampur – can be a good option to camp due to its close proximity to Shimla. Since the town has no guest house, it’s also much more tranquil. The town has a small local restaurant for food.
I know Aphu is located in Sutlej Valley, camping there will prepare you for a Spiti Valley camping experience.
Spend the first night in Arphu and leave the next morning for Sangla.
Though Sangla doesn’t fall on the way to Kaza, experiencing the beauty of Sangla valley (which starts from Sangla and ends in Chitkul) is definitely a no-miss. You may want to see my Chitkul pictures to know what beauty I am talking about.
Finding a place to camp in the open and inviting spaces of Sangla and Chitkul should be easy. Just look for flat ground, close to the river, and make yourself home.
When I visited Sangla and Chitkul, in 2016, I was allowed to do camping for free. Just pitch your own tent anywhere and spend the night. But with increasing popularity, locals do not allow anyone to camp on their own as it harms their business. But there are quite a few campsites in Chitkul to choose from.
If you don’t want to go to Sangla or Chitkul, you can spend a night in the town of Wangtu, or Tapri, located about 100 Km from Arphu. See the big black dot in the map, between Arphu and Nako (in the Spiti Valley map shared above) from where you move towards Sangla, this is where Wangtu is located. Tapri is close to Wangtu.
Next is Nako. Though camping in Nako is fairly restricted, thanks to the many guest houses that don’t want to lose their business, you can camp in Nako monastery. Get permission from the Lama-in-charge, donate some money, and you’re good to go. I think it’s perhaps a better, and more memorable experience, sleeping in a 15th-century monastery than in a guesthouse.
If you fancy staying in Kaza (which is only 7kms away from Key Monastery) you can camp on the premises of Zostel Hostel and pay 200 Rupees a night per tent (this is what I was asked when I visited them in 2016) which seemed the only possible solution to me – as Kaza is comparatively a big town and is not much of a camping ground.
But if you can skip Kaza (as I did) the towns of Key and Kibber are fairly good options to camp. So spend a night there, before moving forward towards Manali.
Almost all the places that fall on the way from Kaza to Losar – which include my personal favorite Kiato, are perfect camping. The only problem is – they’ve no restaurants (or didn’t have one in the year 2016). So, in case you’re not carrying your equipment to cook, you’ll need to drive straight to the town of Losar, and find a spot there.
After Losar, next is Chandratal – which is just an ideal spot for camping and is possibly the best camping site in the entire Tribal Circuit. Please note that camping is not allowed by the edge of the lake, and it is a good thing. From the camping grounds, the lake is still about 3km away. When I visited Chandratal in 2016, I was allowed to camp on my own, but with increasing popularity, locals do not allow anyone to camp on their own as it harms their business. There are quite a few campsites in Chandratal to choose from.
If you are a group of more than 5 people, I can help you book a campsite in Chandratal. Click here and contact me on Instagram.
Chandratal to Manali is possible in a day, but if you find yourself tired, there are many places between to camp. You will find a few Dhabas in Batal, ideal for camping. It is even possible to sleep in one of these Dhabas for a small price.
And that is it, the camping in Spiti Valley experience concludes here.
Other Things To Know
I carried my standard ‘Quechua Arpenaz 2 Tent’, which is definitely not meant to stand high altitude and gusty winds, yet it proved to be quite reliable. But to tell you the truth it was a little unstable in a few places, particularly in Chandratal, due to the tent’s comparatively poor air resistance. I’d suggest a tent with better air resistance. A sleeping bag which allows you to be comfortable in temperatures falling under -5 degrees Celsius is a must.
If you’re solo, it is advised to camp close to some kind of civilization (use the red dots on the map, as your camping location). Because some animals are better left alone, and you’re not one of them.
Related read this Cheap Spiti Valley Tour if you want to visit there on the minimum possible budget.
If you know of more camping places in Spiti Valley, please share them in the comments below!