THE C IRCUIT TO THE MIDDLE LAND OR THE LAND OF LAMAS, SPITI VALLEY
About Spiti valley:
the land with some stunning landscape, awesome trekking opportunities to the places untouched by tourism yet, definitely some aldrinine tarmac, monasteries and pristine glaciers and so much more. This place has worlds’ highest inhabited villages, some drool worthy authentic cuisine and post card worthy pictures of some monasteries set against a backdrop of clear blue skies. Off course Ladakh is everyone’s dream, but did you know that spiti valley is much less explored trans Himalayan ranges offering many untouched Himalayan terrains. There are a lot of old trade routes through Lahaul and Spiti all the way to Tibet which were in use many centuries back. Some of these are sealed for safety reasons but only a handful still exist, known only to trekkers and explorers. Of course the terrain is seriously challenging but someone has rightly said the best view comes after all the hardships and pain. From the explore rambling old monasteries, and savor the marvel of this ancient civilization and so much more to do here. You can get ample amounts of time to explore yourself as well as test your endurance level in high terrain regions. From treacherous mountain paths to the most daunting expeditions. This place is truly a combination full of thrill and adventure. You can plan a perfect road trip. The road to Spiti Valley remains open all round the year through Shimla- Kinnaur route while the road from Manali side closes in winter as soon as Rohtang Pass and Kunzum Pass close. Spiti is surrounded by Tibet in the East, Ladakh in the North, Kullu and Lahaul in the South and Kinnaur in the South East. Through this road trip, you will come across some stunning scapes which you must have witnessed in national geographic channels or geography books. From the serene Baspa river and the view of apple orchards as you pass Asia’s dangerous road of Kinnaur. It’s still an unknown paradise for many people. You can truly witness nature's paradise and in one sentence "the place where nature is a luxury”. Yes, Spiti valley is the one. The region offers spectacular glimpses of the snow capped Himalayan ranges. Spiti Valley lies at a height of 12500 feet and is entirely surrounded by the Himalayan ranges on all sides. The valley is a treat to the eyes with the mighty Himalayas, the passes between them, the pristine lakes and the clear blue sky
Best time to explore and experience Spiti Valley:
April till June, is the summer time and of the best season and tourism is on its peak. Spiti Valley weather in May marks the beginning of the tourist season as the route via Manali opens in this month. Late May to June is the best season to visit Spiti Valley as the temperature rises above the 0 degree celsius which makes traveling possible in this area. The temperature in Spiti Valley in June ranges between 0 and 15 degree celsius which makes it perfect for sightseeing and outdoor activities. Also these months are the best for all the riders out there. From the journey to this wonderland since the road conditions on Kinnaur-Spiti road remains mostly good during April and May month. In Spiti, there are chances of snowfall even in April month and you could come across land-slips or boulder blocked road sections. During the first or second week of June. High-altitude mountain lakes like Dhangkar and Chandratal become accessible from June month. So it's the best time to plan the trip during these months.
July till September, is the general monsoon season. But honestly, this is one of the least expected rainfall zones. Monsoon is also not a good time to visit the valley as, during this season, the rainy weather in Lahaul Spiti makes traveling quite difficult. The roads become quite muddy, and the waterfalls are also on full flow. Therefore, travellers get stuck for days while traveling during the monsoon season. The heavy showers of rain hinder sightseeing of the city’s major tourist attractions as well. major blockage is caused by rains on Shimla, Kinnaur and Manali routes since there are high chances of avalanches, landslides and flood at times. So that's why it is definitely not the good month to travel since you need to cross Shimla or Manali or whatever circuit you choose.
October till march, official winter season and everything is shut down straight for six months. During this season, Lahaul Spiti temperature starts dropping steadily, turning the valley into a cold desert. Travelers who want to visit Spiti Valley in October will have to take Srinagar and Kargil route as the route from Manali is shut by the authorities during winters. Temperature in Spiti Valley in December ranges from -1 to -5 and at night it may drop to -30 degrees as well. Thats why due to the extreme temperature in Lahaul Spiti, it is not recommended to travel to the valley in winter. But despite such harsh conditions, these days people are actually making winter Spiti trips. There are very few companies who organises everything since it all depends on the weather conditions. Many time you might get caught in incessant snowfall for days. So if you still plan to explore winter wonderland or white Spiti, you must be mentally, physically very strong to endure.
Places to visit Spiti Valley:
Key Monastery, one of the most instagrammable spot across the whole social media. one of the most popular places to visit in Spiti valley, located in the Kaza region. Overlooking the Spiti River at an altitude of 4112 m, Key Monastery is one of the biggest gompas known for the stunning Buddha shrine, ancient books, manuscripts, and murals. Founded by Dromton, a famous disciple of teacher Atisha in the 11th century, the monastery used to house about 350 lamas at one time. The monastery is famous for its architecture called Pasada style. Pasada style is characterised by two or more stories and often plays the role of a fort-monastery. The monastery is spread over three floors – underground, ground and first floor. Underground is mainly utilized for storage; ground floor is used as assembly hall, called Du-Khang. The ground floor also has small rooms for monks. The rooms with murals called Tangyur which Is a must see. This monastery appears like a fortress. The scenic landscape which forms the backdrop for Key Monastery is also a factor in the large number of tourists making a beeline for the remote monastery. Surrounded by snow capped mountains and glaciers, the beauty of the valley is breathtaking.
Tabo Monastery is one of the ancient places to visit in Spiti valley. It has 9 temples of Tara & Buddha Maitreya and multiple Stupas that are the key attractions of the monastery. It is very well known for its ancient paintings too. Tabo Monastery is also called “Ajanta of The Himalayas”, this ancient beauty rests at 3050 meters above sea level. Unlike the other monasteries which are built on hills, Tabo monastery is sitting at the bottom of the valley, in the rocky desert of Tabo Valley. The foundation was laid in 996 A.D by the Buddhist king Yeshe O’d. That is the reason Tabo Monastery is one of the most popular historical sites in Lahaul and Spiti Valley. The walls of the monastery are covered by priceless paintings, statues, frescos and murals. The Archaeological Survey of India looked after the monastery temple complex and has declared it as “National historic treasure” of India. Despite being a part of prehistoric times, the paintings in the monastery are still fresh as new, which is one of the biggest reasons for making a visit to this ancient monastery. How interesting and awe inspiring place It is! Its a must visit place which should be in your itinerary.
Lhalung Monastery, not many of you might. Have heard of this historic and spiritual place. It is also known as, Tayul Gompa is assumed as the oldest monastery in the Northern region. The monastery is standing tall in the midst of the mighty mountains. It is located at an elevation of 3900 m above the sea level in the Bhaga Valley of Lahaul and Spiti. Satingri village is home to the Tayul Gompa that can be reached by a steep footpath from Upper Keylong. The most vulnerable possession of the monastery is the 12 ft statue of Guru Padmasambhava, besides the famous manifestation of Singhmukha and Vajravarahi. There are 108 main wheels as well in the monastery, which keeps on self-turning on auspicious occasions. All the many wheels have an impression of "Aum Mani Padme Hunch." Last time the wheel self rotated was in 1986.
Gandhola Monastery also known as Guru Ghantal Gompa. The monastery was established by Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century CE. In the year 1857, historians discovered a copper goblet which is the oldest example of metalwork from the 1st century. The Buddhist civilization was pretty advanced at that time as well. Perched at an elevation of 3160 m on the rocky cliffs of Tupchiling village, the mighty monastery is close to the point where there is a confluence of Chandra and Bhaga River. A unique feature of the Guru Ghantal monastery is the wooden idols of the Buddha, said to have been installed by the monk Rinchen Zangpo. Within the shrine, there are many other possessions like sculptures made of clay, numerous idols of Guru Padma Sambhava, Brijeshwari Devi and other lamas, an image of Goddess Kali cast in black stone, paintings, murals and white marble heads of Avalokitesvara which were installed by the founders.
Chandratal Lake, it is a crescent moon-line shaped lake. This enticing lake is perched on the Samudra Tapu plateau which lies in close proximity to Chandra river. Situated at an altitude of 4300 meters, Chandratal offers the most splendid views of the Spiti region. This place is a perfect example of adventure and some great camping for some adrenaline junkie. Turquoise blue water, majestic mountains and serene surroundings which make it an apt place for camping. It would be really cold during night and evenings , so make sure to carry some warm hoodies, inners and pullovers. This place is a photographer's paradise especially during summers as the crystal blue water is surrounded by lush greenery and snow-capped mountains. Earlier, the lake was the resting point for the traders and voyagers who used to come from Tibet or Ladakh. Apart from June, July, August and September this lake remains frozen.
Dhankar Lake, is on the elevation of 4270 m above sea level, Dashair and Dhankar Lake is located near the Rohtang Pass. The lake is also known by the name of Sarkund. Dashair and Dhankar Lake is considered as half man made and rest natural. There are lots of stories and myths which are associated with the foundation of the Dhankar Lake. According to these stories, Lord Shiv stayed at this lake for some time in search of Vishnu. While Shiva was wandering in search of Vishnu, his attendant Nandi drank some water from this place and as a reward Lord Shiv blessed the area with plenty of water. Dhankar Lake can be approached by a trek from the famous Dhankar monastery.
Kunzum Pass is located at an altitude of 15,060 feet above sea level. It is one of the gateways to Chandratal Lake. The Kunzum Pass is one of the highest motorable passes of India and acts as a connection link between the Lahaul Valley and the Spiti valley. It is located at a distance of 122 km from Manali town and further leads to Kaza town. Kunzum Pass is a haven for photographers. This place is very unpredictable, cold, sunny, windy it can be anything within the blink of an eye. Surrounded by the Beautiful glaciers, snow-clad peaks and the valley beyond give exquisite views for photography. This place is in the list or itinerary of every adventure enthusiasts. The pass also houses a temple devoted to Goddess Kunzum Devi, the deity who guards the pass and protects it and travellers from evil powers.
Pin Valley National Park, it's a cold desert area famous for the endangered Snow Leopard. This park was established in 1987 as a part of the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area. Perched at an altitude that ranges between 3,300 and 6,632 meters above sea level, the Pin Valley National Park is a gem of an attraction, which is bestowed with an amazing assortment of flora and fauna. alpine pasture or dry alpine Scrub Forest that offers a good collection of flora, including Juniper & Birch trees, Salix spp. & Myricaria spp., Myricaria Shrubs, Bhojpatra (Betula Utilis), Bhutal (Juniperus mecropoda), Populus Spp, etc. Some of the plants found here are rich in medicinal quality and spices that are collected by local Pharmacists for the preparation of medicines. The park comprises of about 12 big cats and wild animals like Siberian Ibex, Bharal, Weasel, Red Fox, Marten, Woolly Hare, Tibetan Gazelle, Himalayan Marmot, Blue Sheep, Himalayan Brown Bear, Himalayan Black Bear, etc. There are many bird species in the park, including the Himalayan Snow Cock, Chukor, Golden Eagle, Griffon, Cough, Raven, Blue Rock Pigeon, Snow Pigeon, and more. Wildlife lovers stay here for months just to spot a glimpse of those extinct species even in the harsh winters.
Kibber is at an elevation of 4270 metres or 14,200 ft in Himachal Pradesh in northern India. It contains a monastery and the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary. It is located 20 kilometres from Kaza. This village is made of only 80 houses with approximately 366 residents. This village attracts a large number of tourists every year for trekking and mountaineering. It is also a preferred camping destination during summers. If you are an adventure lover you must trek to parang la, the connecting gateway to ladakh. Transportation is a challenge in Kibber due to underdeveloped roadways. You can avail the regular bus service that connects Kibber to Kaza or travel by shared taxi. But it is advisable to have your own mode of transport.
Losar village, in Spiti Valley is located adjacent to the Indo Chinese border at an altitude of 4,085 meters above sea level. It is located in the extreme end of the Spiti Valley, which is much similar to Ladakh in appearance. There are magnificent mountains, stunning rivers, and breathtaking vistas in Losar that can spellbind any tourist with its unparalleled beauty. This place cannot afford to be missed at all. The place is so beautiful and refreshing that people from all across the country and the world come here to relax in the tranquil atmosphere. The distance between Losar and Kaza is only 56 km but those few hours would be definitely the best experiences of your life while travelling. The colours of the mountains changes, the weather changes and the village scapes are just so perfect too. You will be filled with another level energy.
Komik is the world's highest village with a road. It is just 20 km from Kaza, it is a small, beautiful village located at 18,000 feet above sea level. Nothing less than paradise, Komik is a trekker and adventure seekers dream. Most of the residents of Komic practice Buddhism. The main reason travellers started visiting Komik was because of the title as the “Highest village in the world connected with a motorable road”. Another reason was it’s close proximity to Langza village (also known as the Fossil Village of India) and Hikkim village (which happens to be the highest village with a post office). Komik Village is famous for Lundup Tsemo Gompa Buddhist Monastery. It is believed that the monastery has 'Matrey Buddha,' or 'the future Buddha,' who looks after the well being of the people of Komik Village. You can go for many treks in the region too to explore on your own.
Kungri Monastery, in pin valley is considered to be an attraction worth visiting owing to its religious and traditional beauty. It ranks second amongst the oldest monasteries in Spiti. The monastery is frequented by various tourists, pilgrims, as well as scholars of Buddhism. Buddhist monastery of the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism in the Pin Valley in Lahaul and Spiti. This Monastery has assorted silk paintings of various Buddhist deities on the inner walls and showcases huge statues and over 300 volumes of the sacred Tibetan texts, Kenjur and Tenjur preserved carefully in white muslin. You can witness the famous The sword dance performed every July. Several tourists visit the monastery during this period to witness this popular dance.
Nako Lake, This lake is seated on the slopes of the Reo Purgyil Mountain of the Srikhand range that is located in the Himalayas of northern India. This Lake has been a popular hotspot that has been alluring its tourists with the beauty it resides. The view of this lake gets more enhanced by the array of poplar and willow trees along its boundary whose shadow in the waters adds to the charm of the lake. The lake is surrounded by four Tibetan temples. It is a nature’s gem located in the picturesque surroundings of the Himalayas. A waterfall is also located near this majestic lake which is said to be the abode of fairies as per the legends and the locals. This place is paradise for photographers in summers and winters both. During winters its so frozen that you can walk on the lake too.
Key highlights of Spiti Valley:
1. Key Monastery
2. Tabo Monastery
3. Lhalung Monastery
4. Gandhola Monastery
5. Chandratal lake
6. Dhankar Lake
7. Kunzum Pass
8. Pin Valley National Park
12. Komik Darcha
13. Kungri Monastery
16. Nako Lake
17. Dhankar Monastery
Local food to experience in Spiti Valley:
4. Tudkiya Bhaath
6. Chaa Gosht
10. Trout curry
13. Chicken Anardana
14. Pahadi Chicken
15. Gahat Ka Shorba
16. Alu Palda
17. Luchi Poti
Accessible routes for spiti valley:
There are 2 different circuits to reach spiti. One from Shimla another from Manali. The distance of 450km between Shimla and Kaza usually takes about two days to cover, with an overnight stay in between. Delhi to Shimla/ manali you can get buses on a regular basis. If you’d rather take the train, the nearest station to Manali is the Jogindernagar railway station. Though you may not find a direct train from your starting point, it is still a more comfortable option than the bus. The Bhuntar airport is the closest airport to Manali, located 50 km away. It is well-connected with Chandigarh airport. So you can simply fly down to Chandigarh and catch your flight to Manali. But once you reach Shimla/manali you need to book either shared cabs or personal cabs to spiti valley.