Friday, 2 January 2015

Nako – High Altitude Destination in Kinnaur Valley, Himachal Pradesh

On morning of 6th May 2014, we left behind Kaza, commencing our return journey. We were headed for Nako ( 11,800’) - a high altitude destination belonging to Pooh divisions of Kinnaur district. Going along NH22, a diversion road from Yangthang going 7 km uphill leads us to Nako.  As we ascend, the topography resembles more like that of vegetation less Spiti region rather than lush green valleys of Kinnaur to which Nako belongs. Having acclimatized for harsh cold climate and high altitude at Kaza, Kibber and Pin valley, we surmised Nako will cause no problems.

Nearing Nako - Village View
Nako Lke - Partly Hidden

At 1.30 pm, reaching the fringes of Nako village, black soil bearing enormous potato cultivation plots with the backdrop of towering snow-capped hills making their appearance. The dense cluster of cottages of the village appeared to hide Nako lake cradled at a lower elevation. Our first priority was to hunt for a hotel with a lake facing view. We came across a few hotels but not to our liking. Going upward along the mud track, we had a first glimpse of the lake, partially hidden. Taking a turn, it took some guiding from a villager to squeeze our Tavera car without hitting the boundary walls of adjoining plots to park it next to the hotel- a three storied structure.
Lake View from Opposite Bank
Lake View Hotel

The Lake View Hotel is in a vantage location giving a clear view of lake. It has small cultivation plots in front to grow vegetables.  As luck would have it, a few rooms were vacant and a room on ground floor at Rs.1,500/- per day became our shelter for the night.  Barely 2 pm, after a light lunch and some rest, a walk by the lake side was for asking. Along the cement track adjoining the lake and coming to bang opposite of where our hotel is located, we got a full view of Nako village at slightly higher elevation. The well spread out village, consisting of cluster of houses, comprises of nearly 572 people belonging to 128 families. Their major occupation happens to be potato cultivation.

Fishing in Lake
The Catch

Walking along the lakeside brought us close to a villager, who was busy with his fishing, making use of a long thread with one end tied to a rock and other end with hook. After some attempts he did manage a few small fishes.  The rather small lake had its share of submerged reeds along the edge. The tall trees on the distant end could have been planted to make it look more scenic with its reflection on placid lake water. In early summer, the tree trunk  and branches looked lifeless brown with scanty pale green leaves, having taken the brunt of harsh winter onslaught.

*Nako Monastery
Buddhist Temple

Around 5 pm, the sunlight still strong, we took to the extreme north end of the village to arrive at 11th Century Monastic compound. The Monastery building looked colorful and majestic. The gate being closed, as early summer has very few tourists visiting this place. The four Buddhist temples constructed out of mud-stone looks primitive no doubt, but colored in brick red, have a beauty of their own. The mud plastered Stupas also called Chortens, add to religious fervor of Buddhism, very common in destinations in Indian Himalayas. It was becoming rather cold with chill winds blowing so we finished with our sightseeing as early as we could and returned to hotel for the evening to be locked up in room after giving  order for dinner . The dinner was simple but curry made out of giant local potatoes was delicious and some desi ghee added, made it divine.

Nako Lake View from Elevation
Nako Lake - Full View

The next morning downed with a bright sunlit day to lift our spirits in biting cold of high altitude destination. In my journey through Himalayas, I relished early morning walks through the village. Before taking to village trail, in quest for getting some goods shots of the lake, I walked through the mud stone track uphill to get a vantage view of Nako lake. A large number of Mani stones occupied scattered on roadside, adding a divine dimension to the place. The lake looked magnificent in sunlit morning, with its deep blue water reflecting the trees, some portion of the village and distant snow capped hill, to make up the entire canvass. 

Mani Stones at Nako
Buddhist Temple at Nako Village

Retreating back towards hotel, I took a narrow walking track behind the hotel, going towards village. The single storied houses very close to each other was followed by a colorful Buddhist temple which kept me busy for a few minutes. Not knowing anything of the village, I took to general direction towards north end of village, walking parallel to lake. The early morning is time for villagers to collect fodder for their domesticated animals, which predominantly consisted of milch animals, horses and sheep. At the extreme end of village, a cultivation plot revealed some greenery at last. 
Early summer being beginning of cultivation time, it was too early to see the greenery in potato fields. But, our driver Sohan managed to procure one Nako grown giant potato, weighing more than 500 grams, a produce of last season. 

Nako Village View & Cultivation Plots
Driver Sohan with Prized Possession

Important info: 
1) Nako, in Kinnaur Valley is worthwhile spending a few days.  Lake View Hotel is located closest to Nako lake and booking can be done in advance as per following info:
Ranjeet Negi, cell  09418759493, 08988110689 email:

2) Car hire for Himachal Pradesh destinations: Sohan Travel Services, Main Bazar, Dhalli, Shimla – 171012, email:
Cell:  098166 48573, 094597 30916

Readers can see the video clip on Nako by taking the following captioned link:

* Photo contribution by Sachin Vaidya