Exploring the Serene Beauty of India’s Last Frontier – Chitkul Village in Himachal Pradesh

Nestled high up in the Himalayas lies a valley so remote that it brings you to the very end of India. Welcome to the breathtakingly beautiful Sangla Valley in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district. At the northern tip of this valley, nuzzled between tall pine trees and rocky cliffs, you’ll find the last inhabited village before the India-Tibet border. Its name? The tranquil and picturesque Chitkul.

India’s Last Village

To reach Chitkul village, you need to traverse almost 250 kms from Shimla through rugged mountainous terrain on the famous Hindustan-Tibet road. The long and arduous journey is rewarded with spectacular views of the Himalayas and a sense of euphoria as you enter the last Indian village before the border starts.


As your car struggles up the final few bends, the sparse mountain hamlet of Chitkul emerges into view. Comprising of around 80-100 traditional wooden houses scattered amidst potato farms and fruit orchards, it is hard to imagine a more idyllic location. TIME Magazine once featured Chitkul amongst ‘Top 100 Greatest Places in the World’ to visit, underscoring this village’s opportunity for sustainable tourism.

India’s Cleanest Air

At an altitude of 3450 m above sea level, Chitkul doesn’t just mark the edge of the physical boundary but also offers the cleanest and crispest air in all of India. As per IIT Delhi’s annual environment survey, the tiny village exceeds national air quality standards by over 500%! With no polluting industries operating nearby, the air you breathe has maximum oxygen and minimal contamination.


Lush green pine, fir, deodar and apple orchards envelope Chitkul in a refreshing natural embrace. Wild medicine-rich plants like sea buckthorn, liquorice root and Chinese caterpillar fungus grow in abundance. The dancing Rupin river provides a soothing background score as it meanders below. And clear blue skies above complete the picture postcard scene. When wandering through Chitkul’s meadows, it’s easy to appreciate how our ancestors once revered nature as divine.

Stunning Landscapes

In harmony with their surroundings, most homes and shelters in Chitkul utilize construction materials sourced naturally from the valley. Walls and roofs crafted from deodar pine wood layered upon stone foundations mirror the forested slopes and rocky terrain.

Intricately carved wooden windows, doors and verandahs exhibit expert craftsmanship passed down generations. While exteriors showcase heritage, interiors embrace modernity with solar panels, satellite TV and internet keeping inhabitants connected.


At the heart of the village lies an imposing local fortress constructed in the traditional Kinnauri architectural style. The special hut-like structures seen adjoined to homes are actually storehouses to stock up foodgrains, winter fodder and firewood for harsh snowbound months.

Ingenious Watermill – Grinding Flour Since Ages

Besides natural architecture, Chitkul’s inhabitants display innovation through an indigenous watermill mechanism used to grind wheat flour for centuries. This traditional ‘gharat’ setup channels flowing stream water to turn a wooden turbine which rotates a grinding stone.


Grain steadily trickles into the center, gets finely crushed and the resulting powder slides out from the sides. Water current does all the work 24/7, emanating a rhythmic sound that echoes through the valley. Costing next to nothing, this eco-friendly automated equipment continues to sustain the village economy.

Connecting With Chitkul’s Inspiring 90-Year Old Resident

I meet an especially vigorous nonagenarian village elder who shares first-hand experiences of living in Chitkul for almost a century! He discloses that education opportunities were absent earlier so most inhabitants are not formally schooled.


Yet they manage to speak Hindi having intuitively picked up the language over years of hosting visitors. With a sparkle in his eyes, he declares “You don’t need to study to learn Hindi. But you do need to open your heart!”. His words reflect immense wisdom drawn from observing this little hamlet over 9 extraordinary decades.

Raksham Village – Where India’s Last Locals Migrate in Winter

During relentless wintertime snowfall, temperatures within Chitkul can plummet below -20°C freezing the landscape into a white blanket! River surfaces turn into solid ice caps making roads impassable. Entire villages become completely isolated for months.

In such extreme conditions, most Chitkul residents migrate seasonally to lower altitude villages like Raksham just 10 kms away across the river basin. Connected by an iron suspension bridge overlooking the blazing Baspa river, this tiny settlement serves as a home for Chitkul locals until spring arrives once more.

Spread below snow-dusted high-altitude peaks and cliffs, Raksham village appears like a toy hamlet with its handful of scattered houses and tiny fields. A calm serenity prevails this offbeat destination. Villagers grow mustard, potatoes, beans and pulses in fertile black soil along the riverbank. I’m astonished witnessing a local spinning raw goat hair into strong fiber ropes!

My Key Takeaway from India’s Last Villages

Visiting Chitkul and Raksham provided memorable glimpses into indigenous village lifestyles at nature’s edge. Free from materialistic burdens, these caring communities thrive gracefully in consonance and not conflict with their environment. It distills life’s purpose to the basics – fresh air, nutritious food, clean water, inner joy and meaningful social bonds.

The sheer grit, simplicity and self-sufficiency of locals left a deep impression within my urbanized psyche. Filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky once remarked “The allotted function of art is not to exist, just to draw attention to existence”. Similarly, the last villages of India illuminate examples of ideal living worth striving towards in the age of climate change and existential questioning.

Conclusion: Journeying across the Sangla valley transported me into timeless vignettes where snow-capped peaks embrace quaint hamlets in a protective cuddle. Chitkul – India’s last inhabited frontier village left me spellbound with its pristine nature, resourceful residents and the chance to temporarily trade my restless ambitions for blissful contentment. These remote Himalayan destinations offer urban escapists like myself much sought-after refuge through their undiscovered adventures.


Which district of Himachal Pradesh is Chitkul village located in?

Chitkul village is tucked away in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, around 250 kms from the state capital Shimla.

How can I reach Chitkul village?

You can reach Chitkul by doing an overnight journey from Shimla or Delhi via the majestic Hindustan-Tibet highway. Public transport options like HRTC buses as well taxi services also ply visitors till Sangla/Chitkul.

What altitude is Chitkul village situated at?

Chitkul is located at an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet or 3450 metres above sea level on the banks of river Baspa. It is India’s last inhabited village before the border area starts.

Why do Chitkul villagers migrate to lower regions in winters?

In peak wintertime, temperatures within Chitkul can nosedive below -20°C coupled with heavy snowfall blocking access routes. Hence many locals shift to nearby lower altitude villages like Raksham to avoid isolation.

How are most houses in Chitkul village constructed?

Owing to the abundance of pine trees in the region, most homes and shelters in Chitkul features walls and sloped roofs built primarily from Deodar pine wood supplemented by stone masonry foundations reflecting the natural landscape.

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