Nako is a small village high in the upper Himalayas blessed with views, so enchanting and breathtaking that it will take some time for you to realize how far you have come from civilization and how mesmerizing the Himalayas are. And if you are a city dweller like me, I can guarantee that you’d go bonkers gaping at the mountains and the trip tonic 360-degree views, which are bountiful in Nako. Pictures speak a thousand words, or so I believe. See some of the sights that will make you want to pack your bags and hop to Nako.
Nako is a tiny village in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh and lies at the height of 3600 meters (around 12,000 ft.) in the restricted zone along the Indo Tibet border. Inner line permit is required for foreign nationals, but Indians don’t need one. It lies on the road that goes towards the heavenly Spiti valley from Kinnaur district. The rustic and more or less dry mountain ranges start from here onwards and merges with Spiti valley up ahead.
This small village is insanely beautiful, with views of snow-capped Himalayas all around and a small lake in the center of the town called Nako Lake. It’s a small lake, which freezes over in winters, and I have heard that it is used for playing cricket by the kids in the village. This is a high altitude lake surrounded by poplar and willow trees, and a cemented walking area around the lake is being constructed. The best part about this walking area is that you can come here at nighttime, sit down and see the millions of stars twinkling in the lake below and the sky above you. You’d feel as if you can reach out and touch the sparkling stars.
People usually don’t come this far only to visit Nako, and this becomes a stopover for people who are heading to Spiti valley or coming back from Spiti valley to go towards Kalpa. Regardless of whether you are going to or coming back from Spiti Valley, Nako is a place where 2-3 days are needed to see the site. This is a small Buddhist village with peaceful folks and architecture that is at least a few centuries old. There is the Nako monastery that was built in the 996 A.D for the spiritual traveler or for someone interested to see the architecture of a building from centuries ago. Its called tripping back in time 🙂
For the unhurried hippies who like to blend in, soak in, and feel the place before heading out, there are walks around the village, which one can take. There is also a 4-5 hour trek to another small town called Tashigang. This trek starts from behind the lake up the mountain right behind the nako village and is loaded with ecstatic views. The eastern side of the range borders Tibet, and if the laws permit, anyone can reach Tibet from here in a few days of hiking.
How to reach?
Usually, people don’t venture out this far out and up high in the Himalayas to see Nako, and most of the time, they venture up ahead towards Spiti valley. All backpackers first reach Shimla and then travel up ahead on the erstwhile silk route towards Kalpa in Kinnaur district. There are numerous options available from Kalpa, Shimla, or Rampur to reach Nako. Most people come in a hired taxi from the plains or their cars/bikes. Himachal Road Transport buses are also available, but the frequency wouldn’t be too high, and you would have to ask locals for the bus timings. From Kalpa, the distance to Nako is around 100 km, and it would take at least 4-5 hours to cover this distance as these are high mountain passes where 100 km is not the same as in the plains, and it takes time to cover miles.
Courtesy Google Maps
Where to Stay?
There are few guesthouses with names like Galaxy and Lavon. There are tents also available on rent by Kinner camps. In addition to these 4-5 locations, there are homestays also available. This is a new trend, and slowly the local people can earn a living by letting houses for homestay and running small dhabas and internet cafes. As the norm is in the Himalayas, local people are peaceful and quite helpful. Lately, there has been construction going on, and soon, I think this place will have all the facilities like the ones found in the lower Himalayas and the plains.
Best time to go?
Last tiny detail, the roads to Spiti and Leh (or Nako in context to this article) are open only for few months in a year usually opening in June and closing in September before mother earth covers these regions with snows and weather changes and renders this vast and beautiful part of India inaccessible to the rest of the world. The best time to go is during these months only, but if you have time and resources, then maybe it is possible to go deeper into the winter. I am not sure about how one can do it though I would like to try and visit in the wintertime and play cricket on the Nako lake with the local kids 🙂