Driving to Nako from Recong Peo, the landscape changes rather dramatically. Throw in the loss of trees replaced by stone and rock summits, the Inner Line Permit checkpoints and the off chance of a snow blockage, and you can’t help but have an ominous feeling. Due to the delay in obtaining my Inner Line Permit back in Recong Peo, the planned visit to the Nako Monastery had to be scrubbed. The Monastery, part of the Himachal Pradesh Buddhist tourist circuit, appears to be the only reason travelers would be drawn here in terms of physical attractions.
Tourists can reach Nako via a by-pass from National Highway 22. The numerous switchbacks winding up the sinister looking peaks hog a considerable amount of time. Had I been prepared with my permit the day before, leaving Recong Peo very early would have been a smarter plan. Before the town limits a few miles you pass the off-limits turnoff for Shipki-La Pass. At 18,040 ft, this road leads into Tibet/China just a few miles up road. Knowing how desolate the area was and the imposing lack of food/drink access, my friend and I decided to use Nako as a quick stopping point. Though we were stretched for time, we needed to eat as the energy bars we snacked on hours before were not gonna last to Tabo.
We found lunch just outside of the town limits at Centerview Dhaba. The location couldn’t have been better offering views of Nako, the farming fields just below the town, and the impending mountain peaks and valleys that lay ahead of us. Leaving Nako, the road and landscape took on an even more sinister feel as we approached Malling Pass. Notorious for rock slides throughout the year, and snow blocks especially in the winter months, we glided past the rock strewn slopes. However, this was not without some white knuckles when it was my turn to hug guard-rail free cliffs. There are no shoulders here and passing another car on this one lane road proved a small challenge. Luckily there was little oncoming traffic.
Nako Lake and it’s village lay just beyond town leading toward the off-limit area of the India-Tibet border. In a future visit I’ll search out whether the lake is accessible to foreign tourists. After the Malling Pass the road reconnects in Chango and National Highway 22.
There are no guest houses noted in any of my guide books for Nako and first glance while driving through town didn’t look promising. The Monastery should provide some sort of hostel type lodging for tourists determined to overnight here. Most travelers in this area are making their way to or from Losar and/or Tabo. Both towns are ripe with guest houses and better food options.