Himachal Pradesh is full of small mountain valleys and offers magnificent sights off the beaten tourist tracks. Tough the road to Sangla valley can be quite nerve wracking, it’s a pleasant surprise to discover places like Kamru, a tiny village on the backside of Kinner Kailash – one of the highest mountains in the North-Indian state.
Looking from Sangla village towards the impressive mountain range with snow capped peaks, the Kamru Fort will not escape your wandering eye. Located on top of a hill, towering over the strategic entrance into the widening Sangla valley, the fort virtually sits on top of Kamru village and is a landmark for the entire region. Its special wooden architecture dates back to the 15th century, medieval times. The wider, beautifully carved wooden top floors are built on a narrower white and dark brown stone and wood tower. Kamru Fort has a history of more than 500 years and is a fine example for the endurance of wooden constructions in mountain valleys. Similar examples can be seen all around the world, for example in the Alpine region in Europe.
Also home to a Vishnu (Lord Badrinath) temple, the local population regards the Kamru Fort as its guardian and feels that it has protected them over centuries. People believe that there are 360 million gods and goddesses living inside the temple. The fort can only be reached by foot and after a steep climb on village trails. It’s well worth the extra effort: The view from Kamru Fort is impressing. Its position has been chosen wisely by the rulers of the Kinnaur region, who were said to be crowned at the fort’s premises.
As an outsider, the temple can only be entered when the caretaker or a priest is there; in addition you need to cover your head and wear a thread around your chest.
If you travel further in the valley, you will find plenty of apple orchards, nice forest areas, rocky mountains with waterfalls and the valleys main asset, the river Baspa. Don’t miss to stop and take a stroll or a longer hike along the riverside. One of the best places to stay over night on the shores of Baspa river and fall asleep with the soothing sound of flowing water is Rakcham. The calm village has some splendid scenery and is also a starting point for short or longer hikes to the surrounding mountains. Local guides can be found on the spot. There is guesthouses and camps with tents. A nice café on the roadside will also serve freshly made food or a cup of chai.
If you follow the Baspa river further upstream, you will eventually end your journey in Chitkul, the last Indian village before the Indo-Chinese border.
Sangla valley can be reached by vehicle from Chandigarh in just a couple of hours. As there is a lot of road construction and blasting for hydropower projects, sometimes followed by rockfall or even major landslides, you should always check road conditions with local sources before starting a trip into the area. Before Baspa river joins Sutlej river, its natural flow is also regulated by dams for hydropower. When entering Sangla valley from Sutlej river, you will drive right through some massive dam constructions.