Walking Through the Ancient Lanes of Nako, a Small Village in the Indian Himalayas
If you’re travelling from Reckong Peo to Spiti you’ll pass by Nako. Some people breeze right by without sampling what this little town has to offer, but that would be a big mistake. Nako is surrounded by amazing scenery (most villages in this region of Himachal Pradesh are), but it’s the traditional stone houses of the old town that make it special. Throw in a small lake (which is rare in these parts) and you have one of north India’s most appealing mountain villages.
Walking the historic lanes of Nako
Most of Nako’s tiny lanes are too narrow for cars. The only traffic you’ll see consists of slowly shuffling locals and wandering farm animals. At one point I saw a horse at full gallop speed past me. I started my walk on the outskirts of the old town and was rewarded by sweeping views of the snow-capped Himalayas towering above barren foot hills. The harsh, lifeless earth stretches for miles, occasionally punctuated by a small oasis of trees and houses.
I visited the temple and saw some old stupas, and from there I turned away from the views and headed through the deserted lanes of Nako’s old town. Ancient stone houses surrounded by animal pens and hay line the maze of mud paths. Unlike old towns in other parts of the world, the traditional way of life is far more important than catering to tourists. There are no heritage hotels, boutique shops or quaint cafes amidst the historic houses, but I’m sure that will change one day.
Relaxing by the Lake
The small lake in the centre of Nako is a peaceful spot. The trees, houses and mountains reflect in the shallow water, making it one of the most photogenic places in town. There are a couple of guesthouses close to the lake and it looks like a great area to stay.
Nako from Above
From the lake you’ll see a path heading up the hill behind town. It’s a short walk up a rocky trail to the top. Again I was all alone up there, except for the marmot I saw darting between the rocks. There’s are several small stupas on the way up and a prayer wheel surrounded by prayer flags at the top.
Walking in the Countryside near Nako
I didn’t have time to go on the day hike to Tashigang (which is a popular thing to do in Nako), so instead I headed to the bus stand outside of town and then towards another village I’d seen from the window of the bus when I arrived. I walked along the road, occasionally standing to the side while vehicles passed. This is one of the most scenic stretches of the road to Spiti. I plotted my course for a small stupa draped in prayer flags. I eventually made it there after scrambling up the dodgiest of rocky slopes. It was such a peaceful spot — I imagine it’s even more special if you’re the spiritual type. In other parts of the world you might have to walk for hours, or days, to see views like these, but in Nako, and most other towns and villages in this part of India, panoramic views of towering mountains and deep valleys are never far away.
Nako Travel Tips
- Getting to Nako: You’ll pass Nako while travelling between Reckong Peo and Kaza (or Tabo). The bus from Reckong Peo takes five hours (it leaves at around 7 am) and can get crowded (it goes all the way from Reckong Peo to Kaza and there is only one bus a day). I was lucky enough to get the last seat — get to the bus station early as you really don’t want to be standing up on these winding mountain roads. When leaving Nako you’ll have to get on the bus which comes from Reckong Peo — it stops on the main road, around a 10 minute walk from town, at around midday. I ended up having to stand for the entire three hour journey to Tabo — it’s the only downside to stopping in Nako instead of travelling straight through. If you can get a few people together it might be worth hiring a taxi. If you’re coming from the opposite direction (Kaza or Tabo), it’s the same situation– Nako’s location, basically halfway between the two towns with bus stations, means any bus you take from Nako will quite possibly be full of people.
- Where to Stay in Nako: I followed the one road into Nako and eventually found myself in the “touristy” part of town, consisting of a few guesthouses, restaurants and shops. I stayed at Galaxy Guesthouse and my 300 INR room was excellent. It was clean, had an awesome view and my private bathroom had a hot water shower. It gets cold in Nako so hot water is important.
- When to visit Nako: I visited Nako in May and it was very quiet. I’m sure it gets busier in the summer once all the mountain passes in the region open up. You can reach Nako, and further on into Spiti, at all times of year, but if you want to carry on to Manali or Ladakh you’ll need to wait for the Kunzum Pass to open (usually in June or July). I ended up going to Spiti and then having to backtrack to Reckong Peo — it’s the only downside to visiting this region before the passes open.
Are you planning a trip to north India? Where are you most excited to visit? Let me know in the comments below.