Are you mesmerized by the landscapes of Ladakh? Do you still think Kashmir is ‘paradise on earth’? India is truly incredible. There lays a remote valley in Himachal Pradesh that is equally, if not more beautiful than any other mountain delight. The Lahaul and Spiti Valley is truly a Himalayan paradise.
Lahaul and Spiti is a patch of cold desert with patches of green. Surrounded by majestic mountains, this valley is the epitome of peace and serenity. However Lahaul and Spiti is relatively less known among tourists. It is also the fourth least populated district in India where the population density is only 2 people per square kilometre.
How do you get to Lahaul Spiti?
Lahaul and Spiti were formerly two separate districts but were later merged into one. Keylong is the capital of the district. To enter into this valley by road, one must come from Shimla through Rohtang Pass and reach Tabo. Buses also run from Manali to Kaza, which is 480 kilometre away whereas Shimla is 410 kilometre from Kaza. You can stay at Kaza and see around Lahaul and Spiti Valley.
If you want to take your own vehicle, make sure you have a good hand on driving on narrow mountainous roads and your vehicle is preferably a 4×4. Otherwise, it is wiser to hire a local one.
The nearest airport is Bhuntar and Shimla. From there it is a few hours’ journey to Spiti by road.
Train connectivity is limited due to the rough terrain. Broad gauge trains run only till Chandigarh and Kalka. From there one can avail narrow gauge trains to Shimla and Jogindernagar. From there hire a car or a local transport to cover the rest of the journey by road. For information, Kaza to Chandigarh distance by road is about 500 km via Manali and 520 km via Shimla.
What to see
The landscape may be less in vegetation but rich in spirituality. The Lahaul and Spiti Valley is home to several monasteries like the Shashur, Kungri, Dhankar, Tnagyud Gompa and the Sherkhang Gompa which serve as place for religion, shelter and strength. One of the most stunning monasteries is the Kye or Kee Gompa.
The Kee Monastery is probably one of the most picturesque buildings you will ever see. Located 12 kilometre from Gaza in the remote cold desert is the majestic Kee Gompa. The Spiti River quietly flows in the valley below.
Sitting at 13,668 ft, this Tibetian Buddhist temple is home to hundreds of monks. It is the place where the Lamas train and meditate.
The Kee monastery is beautifully painted with murals on Buddha’s life. Some of these paintings are hundreds of years old. Many ancient books and scripts are preserved here for centuries. It is believed that this Buddhist temple is at least a thousand years old.
Ajanta of the Himalayas
The Tabo Monastery is one of the oldest operating Buddhist monasteries of the world and this national treasure is also maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. This place is so valuable, historically and in art, that it is also called the ‘Ajanta of the Himalayas’.
Tabo monastery is full of priceless murals and paintings. No wall is left bare, every piece of space is decorated with the stories from the life of Buddha and the deities. It is a place like no other which houses hundreds of ancient scrolls, frescoes, mandalas and paintings. The Tabo also holds the thangkas, the Tibetian Buddhist way of painting deities and religious motifs on cloth. These thangkas are considered highly sacred and used for meditation.
The Buddhist Mummy
The Spiti Valley is home to the unbelievable mummy of a Buddhist monk. The monk was found frozen in the ice long dead, yet his body fully preserved. The body was brought and is now kept in a glass chamber. Unbelievably, the nails and hair of the monk still keep growing!
For nature and adventure lovers
There is a lot for the adventure lovers. You can spend heavenly days and nights in a tent beside the Chandra Taal Lake. The water is crystal clear. The sky is so clean that you could see the Milky Way all night. With zero pollution almost no people to worry about, Lahaul and Spiti is for them who are looking to be one with nature.
There are several trekking routes. Trekking takes you through the villages of Kaza, Langza, Hikkim, Komic, Kibber, Losar, Sumdo, Nako and Kunzum La. There are some treks which take you through higher altitudes and are only for the serious trekker. These treks cross the many high altitude passes like Parangla, Pin Parvati, Baba Pass, Left Bank and Hamta Pass.
Skiing is also a sport becoming popular among tourists in Lahaul and Spiti.
Yak Safari and Wildlife
An interesting and one of a kind experience would be a yak safari. The yak is to this cold desert what the camel is to the sandy desert – the beast and best of transport. The yak is a very gentle animal, quite opposite to how it looks. Yak safaris will take you through the rough terrain instead of you have to walk or trek through it. In fact, you will hardly find any vehicles travelling to villages at 15,000 feet! Your yak will take you on a nice quiet walk while you enjoy the heavenly landscape and sparkling lakes. Enjoy warm momos as lunch beside the scintillating mountain river while you wonder if you ever want to go back.
Lahaul and Spiti Valley may be a cold desert but it is also famous for its unique biodiversity. It is home to one of the most beautiful creatures on the planet, the snow leopard. In 2019, a snow leopard was spotted in Spiti roaming the roads. You can arrange a Snow Leopard safari which will take you through its habitats and show the conservation efforts. Kibber has come to worldwide attention as it is a snow leopard habitat as well as a thriving village and how well the locals are trying to maintain a man-nature balance. If you are in luck, you may also get a glimpse of the king of the mountains.
Besides the leopard Lahaul and Spiti Valley is home to hundreds of rare and valued creatures. The musk deer from which the fragrance is named and derived, grazes the valley along with Himalayan blue sheep, the ibex and argali. The region has its own special bear, the Himalayan brown bear. Spread across the Pin Valley National Park and Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary, you will find Kiangs (Tibetian ass), Chiru (Tibetian antelope) and the fox, which are indigenous to this area.
Hotels And Home stays
Recently number of hotels welcoming tourists has increased. This is due to the tourism department of Himachal Pradesh which is encouraging and establishing more travel facilities.
You can stay at a hotel in Kaza which is connected to Shimla and Manali by road. From here, you can plan your itinerary around the valley.
You can also choose a home stay instead. This may be less in amenities but a home stay will give you a closer look of the people and their lifestyle. The locals are known for their warm hospitality. Local delicacies like thukpas and butter tea are unmissable.
Best time to visit is April to October. But carry warm clothes as it gets chilly after sun fall. During May and June, the weather is around 15 to 20 degree Celsius. During winter it goes about minus 20 degree Celsius.
If you visit during July or August, you may also get a chance to enjoy the Ladarcha Fair that is held in Kaza. It is a beautiful and colourful festive time for the locals. Dechhang is another festival of the valley but it is celebrated in the dead of the winters. Lossar is the new year celebration which usually falls in February according to the lunar calendar.
Here is some information that help you plan your next trip to Lahaul and Spiti Valley. Source: https://himachaltourism.gov.in/destination/spiti-valley/
STD Code : 01906
District Tourism Development Officer-cum- Add. Deputy Commissioner : 01906-222202
Director, Pin Valley National Park, Spiti : 01906-222263