Spiti

Why To Go

The Lahaul and Spiti district in the state of Himachal Pradesh is famous for its incredible scenic beauty. A cluster of small, remote villages nestled amongst formidable, snow-covered Himalayan Peaks, Lahaul and Spiti are often clubbed together, but are two different places. While Lahaul is greener, Spiti has landscape more akin to a desert-like feel. Located close to the Indo-Tibet border, Spiti means “Middle Land” because it stands between India and Tibet.

Spiti is very close to Ladakh, and is surrounded by the Himalayan Mountain Ranges. The place experiences heavy snowfall very frequently and it is situated along the banks of River Spiti. The place has had close contact with Buddhist culture for a very long time, and there is a huge Buddhist population settled in Spiti now. Some of the most ancient and breathtaking monasteries are situated in this part of the district, and the natural beauty of Spiti too, is definitely worth a visit.

The haunting cold mountain desert of Spiti, in the far north-eastern corner of Himachal, is unique in many ways. The drive from Manali takes you through remote, uninhabited areas, with boulder strewn roads, river beds, high-velocity winds, severe cold, low oxygen level high altitude sickness, making it an irresistible  journey for the lovers of the off beat.

Travel Tips

Avoid the winter season when visiting Spiti. The winters here are quite brutal, with heavy snowfall. The best time to visit would be during the summers i.e. in between March and June, when the weather remains cool and pleasant and temperature ranges from 1-15 degree Centigrade. However, do carry some light woolens for the evenings.

Things To Do

Ki Monastery and Tabo Monastery are some of the oldest monasteries in the world. The latter was built in 996 A.D. The Ki Gompa is an 11th century cultural and religious relic which is located 12 km away from Kaza. These two places are important Buddhist sites, and even the Dalai Lama visits these monasteries very frequently. The Dhankar Gompa is also another important tourist destination. It is a thousand years old, and they also provide basic meals and accommodation to visitors for a small fee. The Gungri Monastery too, should be visited. It was built by Padmasambhava in 1330 A.D and is located within the Pin Valley. The Pin Valley is also an important destination for nature lovers. The Snow Leopard, often called the phantom cat, is a highly endangered species, and is also very elusive. They can be spotted within the Pin Valley nature spots, and a small glimpse of this beautiful cat is worth the wait for it to come out and show itself. Gui Village is also very popular because of the strange phenomenon of the naturally preserved mummy on display there. This mummy is said to be the body of a Buddhist monk, and is also said to be about five hundred years old. The landscape in Gui is also quite breathtaking. Kaza is the regional headquarter for Spiti. It is also the ideal base camp for most of the beautiful trekking trips which take place. If you want to explore Spiti properly, then settling at Kaza and then exploring the other parts of this beautiful location is an ideal plan. If you’re not in the mood for adventure, though, then simply staying put at one of the smaller, idyllic villages, sipping some heart-warming Tsering Tea, and eating some wholesome, delicious Tibetan food is a good way to plan the trip. The Yak safaris which start out from Kaza are also quite popular, so you might want to look up some of the tour guides who have such services available.

Getting Around

Having your own vehicle is an advantage, however, Himachal Roadways buses are available from Kaza to nearby areas. Local vehicles can be hired. Rickety buses ply the winds mountain road with varying frequency. Mototcycles are also an option but make sure you are experienced and comfortable. Another option in some areas is to walk between villages, which can take anywhere from a couple hours to whole day is rewarding in its own way.

How To Reach

FLIGHT

The closest Airport to Spiti is the one at Kullu and is around 246 km. From there you may reach Spiti valley in around 5 hours.

TRAIN

The railway station at Jodingar Nagar is the closest one to Spiti. Shimla Railway station also lies close to Spiti valley. From both the places you can rent a taxi to reach the valley. Alternatively, you can visit Chandigarh Railway station and then reach Spiti via Shimla by rented taxi. The journey would be app. 9 hours.

ROAD

One can travel from Ladakh, Shimla and particularly Manali to Spiti quite easily by road.

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Surrounding Attractions

Dhankar was the erstwhile capital of Spiti, and home to the royal family spiti, and home to the royal family before they moved to Kewling 300 years ago. Dotted with little hamlets, the drive to Dhankar village is very pleasant and you get great views of the Khatpas. Lhalung literraly means the land of Gods. The monastery in Lhalung is called Serkhang, the golden hall, because of the gold-leaf deities kept here. It is an extremely beautiful chamber. The walls are exquisitely adorned and literally packed with the stucco deities, mainly of Tara and Buddha.
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