How about holidaying amidst valley of virgin mountains encircled with alpine lands, towering peaks and natural exquisiteness? Such tempting depiction regarding a site will certainly drive one’s travel instinct to plan ahead and explore the site with great gusto.
Positioned at an elevation of around 13,000 feet above sea level, Spiti Valley is one such untouched mountain valley in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. This post will plunge you through the high-ceilinged Himalayan Mountains surrounded by thick snow, Buddhist shrines and array of monasteries. With no dearth of adventurous opportunities, this place is also an absolute delight for hikers and trekkers.
Situated at the high elevation in the north-eastern part of Himachal Pradesh, Spiti or Spiti valley houses plenty of monasteries, and this place is considered as the research and cultural centre for Buddhists. Probably this is why a trip to Spiti valley can’t be completed without exploring the diverse range of monasteries here. The name of this place “Spiti” signifies the middle land that lies between India and Tibet.
An interesting fact about Spiti is its resemblance with Lahaul district in terms of culture, language and geographic structure. The languages of the inhabitants from both of these districts belong to Tibetan family. The people of Lahaul are of Indo-Aryan Hindu descent and Tibetan. On the other hand, the inhabitants of Spiti are Bhotia who are more close to Tibetans. Nevertheless, culturally they both are similar to the Tibetans and Ladakhi. Considering the cultural resemblances, both Lahaul and Spiti are often named collectively.
Agriculture is the prime means of occupation in Spiti. People here are involved in various agricultural activities like potato farming, animal husbandry, weaving and crafting. In addition, some other important occupations here are government services and business.
The people of Spiti are religious and generous by nature. Throughout the year various festivals and fairs are celebrated here with great enthusiasm. Some of the commonly celebrated festivals here are Galten Amchauth, Losar, Gataur Mela, Namkan, Chhhisu etc. Dance and music are two essential parts of Spitian cultural.
The depiction of Spitian lifestyle can’t be completed without highlighting their cuisines. The local inhabitants mostly prefer taking steamed noodles, rice and appetizing soup. Some of the popular eatables here include Thukpas, Thenthuk, Momos, Tibetan bread, roti, rice etc.
Having said, the people of Spiti are quite generous by nature, they enjoy partying and social gathering. For Spitians, an occasion is always incomplete without taking a sip of local drinks like Arak and Chang. Apart from local drinks, they do offer Chaza, milk tea and sweet lemon to the teetotallers.
Being located at a high altitude in the mountains of Himalaya, during winter Spiti remains detached from other parts of the country. Intense snowfalls block the roadways of mountain and restrain visitors from exploring the picturesque beauty of Spiti Valley. Year’s most of the time this place lacks a complete bright sunshine. During winter, the temperature in Spiti curbs down up to -300C. This is why the best time to visit Spiti Valley is from May to September when the climate here heats up to 150C clearing the chunky snow from the mountain pass.
Places to see and things to do:
Having portrayed the elevating splendour of Spiti Valley, the place has galore of attractions to offer. Let’s take a look into the various places that you should explore and experience in Spiti.
This place is quite popular amongst the villagers because of its spiritual existence. It is believed that there is a holy shrine in Kunzum Pass that houses the Goddess Kunjum who guards the pass from all evil powers. Kunzum Pass connects Kullu and Lahaul Valley with Spiti Valley, and you can reach here from Kaza. This place is best revealed by the trekkers on the way to the Moon Lake of the Chandratal. Upon reaching the peak of the valley, you can have a picturesque vista of the Chandra Bhaga ranges.
Being the cultural research centre for Buddhists, number of monasteries could be witnessed here in Spiti Valley. Constructed in the 14th century, the Key Monastery is reckoned amongst the oldest monasteries in entire Spiti Valley. The height of this oldest monastery is nearly 4100 meters. There is a big idol of Buddha inside the Key Monastery. In addition, you can also observe an array of prehistoric books and frescos. What attracts the visitors here is its Chinese style architecture.
The list of monasteries in Spiti Valley is enormous. Dhankar Monastery is one more addition on that list. The key feature of this monastery is the four sculptures of ‘Vairocharan’. All these sculptures of Buddha showcase the four directions in which Buddha is seated. The interior embellishment of this monastery with some captivating frescos, antique books and texts pulls many tourists from different parts of the country. Nestled on the crag between Tabo and Kaza, from Dhankar Monastery one can have a startling panorama of vigorous Spiti River. One can reach this monastery by motor vehicles. Visitors flock this monastery from far distances to witness the spiritual centre of Lord Buddha.
#Pin Valley National Park
After exploring various monasteries in Spiti Valley, visiting a National Park amidst semi-frozen rivers could be a thrilling experience. Pin Valley National Park is one of the preferred attractions for visitors here. This park houses different endangered Himalayan snow leopards. In addition, the lush bush of Pin Valley National Park also boasts various species of Ibex. This park is also popular for diverse ranges of floras including alpine trees and Deodar cedar being the prominent ones. Various medicinal plants can also be observed in this National Park. During spring, the environs of Pin Valley get filled up with rare species of birds including snow partridge, chukar partridge, snowcock etc.
#Suraj tal Lake
The Spiti Valley is famed for its natural abundance, which also includes several sparkling lakes. Situated around 65Kms from Keylong, Suraj tal Lake is an idyllic site for nature lovers. Settled with the glaciers of Baralacha La, the surrounding area of this lake is perfect for biking and trekking practices. The crystal and cobalt vista of Suraj tal Lake gives an excellent exposure to photographers.
If you want to treasure your leisure time amidst picturesque and tranquil ambience, Dhankar Lake is something that you must travel by. The alluring facet of this stunning lake is its unmatched beauty. If you spend some quality time here, you can observe the colour transforming sky leaving its spellbound reflection on the crystal clear water of Dhankar Lake. This lake is located within 5Kms reach from the Dhankar monastery and it takes nearly an hour to reach Dhankar Lake from the monastery.
This temple is known for its religious significance, which was built dedicating to Lord Shiva and worshiped by both Hindus and the Buddhists. Located on a rock face towards the edge of a street in Tunde village, Trilokinath Temple is visited mostly in the month of August when three day Pauri festival is celebrated here. Travellers need to reach Keylong before visiting this temple, and the distance between Keylong and Trilokinath Temple is nearly 56Kms by bus. It is said that ages back Kulu Raja made a failure attempt to carry off the idol of deity Shiva. The reason being, the stone was too heavy to move.
One of the key attractions in Spiti Valley is Thangka painting that symbolises the life of Buddhist deities. Such paintings are made on silk and cotton for devotional decors. In order to promote such paining forms, various workshops are organised here from time-to-time showcasing an array of captivating paintings. Many visitors attend such workshops and learn the procedure of making Thangka paintings from the painters. Once these paintings are of no use for display, they are rolled and kept in arid places so that no moisture can affect these paintings. Thangka paintings are also used as important teaching tools.
Spiti Valley is not confined to the above cited attractions. On the contrary, there are many other monasteries, lakes and passes that you can explore here. Some of the additional attractions in Spiti Valley include Kardang Monastery, Tangyud Monastery, Tayul Monastery, Kibber, Chandratal Lake, Baralacha Pass, Gandhola Monastery, Shashur Monastery, Tabo Monastery etc.
After exploring the key attractions in Spiti, if you feel like to get into some thrilling activities and shopping, Spiti Valley has a diverse range of offerings for you.
# Mount Biking, Trekking and Yak Safaris
Spiti Valley has no dearth of thrilling activities. If you want to practice something audacious, you are at the right site. Located in the Himalayan range, Spiti is a perfect delight for trekkers and mount bikers. Mount biking allows you in exploring the untouched beauty majestic sceneries through highest roads and wonderful landscape. For trekkers on the other hand, a wide range of routes are there. Some of the popular trekking routes are Pin-Parvarti route, Kaza-Comic-Kaza route, Kaza-Nako route etc. The best time to experience all these exciting activities are from the months of June to September. In addition, if you love to rove around the hillock regions, Yak and Horse Safaris are the best options for you.
#Shoppers and Platters
Be it a beautiful plain terrain or a majestic mountain, a trip to anywhere remains curtailed unless you reveal your shopping fanaticism. Though, the tourism sector in Lahaul and Spiti districts are not that enriched as compared to other popular hill stations. Yet, in some of the adjoining cities like Keylong and Kaza you will find some Co-operative society run shops and outlets offering you variety of woollen clothes and local jewelleries. Some of the popular take home items from here include shawls, caps, stoles, mufflers, ponchos, ceramic items, stone gems and the Spiti tea. During peak season, prices go higher. So, don’t forget to bargain to fix the deal for right price.
After bag full of shopping, trying Spiti’s cuisine is always smarter idea to enact. Most of the restaurants here in Spiti predominantly serve Tibetan platters. However, in some of the eateries you will also get to taste an interesting blend of delicacies like North-Indian and Israeli food. Some of the local delicacies that you must try here in Spiti Valley are Momos, Arkah, Butter tea and Thukpa. Spiti is also known for its multi-flavoured teas featuring mint, ginger, honey, butter and lemon. In addition, various Chinese cuisines, pizza, coffee, chicken Kiev and buffalo steaks are also served in many restaurants in Spiti.
Here’s list of few restaurants in Spiti where you can taste these luscious platters ranging from INR 150 to INR 400 for two people:
Old Kaza, Spiti Valley,
Himachal Pradesh, India
#Cafe Kunzum Top
Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India
Near Bazaar, Lahaul Spiti,
Himachal Pradesh, India
Spiti Valley, Lahaul- Spiti,
Himachal Pradesh, India
Delimited by majestic mountains, thick bush and lively rivers, Spiti Valley doesn’t have its own airport or any widely connected railway station. Hence, in order to reveal the untouched beauty of Spiti, the best accessible option is roadways. However, for air and railway commuters the nearest airport and railway stations are Kullu Airport and Shimla Railway Station respectively. From the airport/railway station, one can hire taxi or cab to reach Spiti.
As already cited, the best accessible way to reach Spiti is through road network. Travellers may choose one of the two routes heading towards Spiti. First route is from Manali via Hampta and Rohtang pass, and further over the Kunzum pass. During winter this route gets blocked due to heavy snowfall. However, for travellers the route is open from June to October. You will also get various buses from Kaza that run under Himachal Roadways.
If you are travelling from Delhi, various private and public buses are there in Delhi’s Interstate Bus depot. From there you can travel till Manali or Shimla. This will take nearly 12 hours time. Once you reach Manali or Shimla, you will find HRTC buses and Jeeps that head towards Kaza, and from Kaza you can easily reach Spiti.
Second important route to reach Spiti is from Shimla via Kinnaur. The distance is nearly 422Kms, and depending on the road conditions the journey may take around 12hours or more. However, for foreigners travelling through this route require inner line permit.
Places to Stay:
During peak season, Spiti Valley is visited by many travellers from different parts of the country. However, due to its elevation and snow distracted existence, numbers of luxury hotels are limited. But if you look for few good rest-houses and budget accommodations in Kaza, you will find many. The charges may range from INR 500 to INR 1500 per visitor. However, based upon the amenities you avail, the charges may climb up.
Here are few hotels in Kaza that you can try for staying:
Address: Behind BSNL Office, Kaza,
Himachal Pradesh 172114
#Spiti Valley Hotel
Address: Kaza, Himachal Pradesh 172114
#Hotel Sakya Abode
Address: District Lahaul and Spiti,
Kaza, Himachal Pradesh 172114
Address: Sakya Abode, Near Old Busstand,
VPO Kaza, Lahaul and Spiti, Kaza,
Himachal Pradesh 172114
#Hotel Spiti Sarai
Address: Marango Rangarik,
Himachal Pradesh 172114
Address: Gramphu-Batal-Kaza Rd,
Kaza, Himachal Pradesh 172114
#Grand Dewachen – Kaza
Address: Rangrik, Kaza, 172114
In addition to the above listed hotels in Kaza, if you want some comfy staying options in Spiti Valley, various homestays are provided here by the villagers. However, you can’t expect any well-maintained structural toilets here. Hence, you have to squat over a hole provided in one corner of an open space.
During your stay with villagers, you will be served their local foods and drinks. At leisure time, you can interact with them, which will let you know various interesting facts about Spiti people, their culture and lifestyles.
If you are still unable to make your mind up for the next vacation, expediting the untouched beauty of Spiti Valley could be a better idea. So plan now, visit and reach the peak of Spiti Valley Mountain.
- Avoid planning a voyage to Spiti during intense snowfall, as the roadway connectivity gets entirely detached.
- Carry light warm outfits even during summer as the weather is moderate that time.
- If you are travelling to Spiti Valley on bike, know your route well and take short breaks on the go. Also, don’t forget to carry essential belongings like trekking kits, medicines, water, food etc.
- Once you enter the remote terrain of Spiti, your mobile phone’s connectivity may get interrupted.
- Try to carry sufficient cash, as the only nearby ATM option is in Kaza but most of the time these ATMs stay out of order. You can also withdraw cash on the way from Shimla or Manali.
- For using the Internet you can check into the cyber cafe in Kaza.
- Foreigners who enter the terrain of Spiti Valley via Kinnaur must obtain an inner line permit. The reason being, this route is adjacent to Tibetan border. In order to obtain the permit they need to visit Reckong Peo, which is close to Kalpa. The permit may few hours time to get issued.
- Since Spiti Valley is located at high altitude, people with breathing and heart issues are thus advised to consult with doctor before scaling the peaks.