The Spiti Valley Road is one of the toughest adventure roads left on this planet. It’s located in a desert mountain valley, high in the Himalaya mountains in the north-eastern part of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The road carved into the mountains is simply terrible. It's arguably India's most dangerous road.
The road includes gravel and asphalt sections. It’s terrible narrow, pretty steep and very dangerous, and probably more challenging than the famous Leh-Manali Highway. There are no houses, no people, no vehicles to give way to, or anything to remind of the world we have left behind. A narrow road barely good enough to drive reminds that they are still connected with the world, and also gives them access to the terrain that almost feels uncharted. Due its unique location and the climb in elevation over thousands of feet, and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared.
After rain, even a single rainfall, conditions of the road can be challenging. Adverse weather conditions can prompt closure of the road. Thunderstorm activity can quickly change unpaved roads to four-wheel-drive condition or make them impassable. Condition of the road deteriorates quickly on entering Lahaul. Soil is loose and keeps shifting, ensuring that freshly laid tarmac doesn’t even last for a year. Driving involves wading through streams originating from melting snow, which run across the road in a bid to meet Chandra River far below in the valley. Sections of the road are narrow enough to barely let a jeep pass, and any error in judgment would only mean tumbling down the valley and into the fast flowing river. Yet, there are hardly any accidents, thanks to little traffic and the drivers who are used to these roads.
The road is 137km and links Kaza and Gramphoo (Lahual and Spiti). It’s also known as Gramphu-Batal-Kaza road and 80% of the route has no pavement. Along the road you will have to forge streams, perhaps even small rivers, negotiate melting glaciers and drive over piles of sand, rocks and snow. Most of the road is above 11000 feet and only accessible between May and October.
The highest point of the road is the dramatic Kunzum Pass, at an elevation of 4,590 m (15,059 ft) above the sea level. It is one of India’s highest motorable mountain passes. The road switchbacks precipitously up to this pass and runs up the dramatic, glacier-carved Chandra Valley. This painfully slow driving runs along some of the most treacherous terrains in the world, and sign boards along the way exhort drivers to be careful.