It takes certain amount of madness to do this – travelling through unfamiliar terrain, and driving on a highway that’s billed as one of the ‘world’s deadliest roads’. The district of Kinnaur, stretching up to the Tibetan border in southeastern Himachal, is blessed with magnificent mountain and valley scenery and a distinctive cultural and ethnic mix that mutates from Aryan Hindu to Tibetan Buddhist as you progress eastward.
This is a land of mountain villages with slate-roofed temples, vast apple orchards, plunging gorges between towering snow-capped peaks, and hair-raising roads – and beyond it lies remote Spiti, which combines with Kinnaur into a loop from Shimla to Manali, or Keylong that is an unending sequence of breathtaking scenery.
The Kinnauris are proud but friendly people who mainly survive from farming and apple growing. You can recognise them all over India by their green felt basheri hats. To truly appreciate their land, you need to leave the main road, much of which is scarred by the multiple dam projects that are turning the powerful Sutlej River into a massive generator.