Spiti & Lahaul Valley

Destinations Covered: Nako to Kaza
Spiti & Lahaul Valley Tour Duration: 03 Day / 02 Nights

Introduction

The famous district of Lahaul-Spiti is a major tourist attraction of Himachal Pradesh. It comprises two separate districts of Lahaul and Spiti. The administrative centre of the district is Keylong, which is located in Lahaul. Of the two districts,Lahaul is a tad bit more green and fertile. Spiti offers a stark desert mountainous beauty. It is a paradise for lovers of nature and trekkers. The beauty of the snow-capped hills and the shades of bare mountain faces attract tourists from all across the country and beyond. Lahaul and Spiti are two separate Himalayan valleys and are located at the Indo-Tibet border. An enchanting land of captivating Buddhist art and culture distinguishes Lahaul from all other hill stations. The impending mountain ranges and mesmerizing glaciers, cool climes and the variegated landscape of Spiti is somewhat similar to that of Tibet and hence this region earns the title of ‘Little Tibet’.

How to reach

To reach Lahaul and Spiti,one usually has to pass through Manali and travel towards Rohtang Pass and also Leh. A junction near Yari-Khoksar is also crossed. The road runs eastwards leading to Karcha, Spiti and Kaza. This road further mergeswith NH22 and runs towards Shimla. The westward road from Yari-Khoksar or the NH21 leads to Lahaul.

The famous Rohtang and Kunzum La Passes that fall en route from Manali to Lahaul Spiti remains closed till the month of May. On the other hand, the Reckong Peo Pass remains open all through the year.The high-altitude desert landscape is bereft of civilization but bus services are available from Manali to Kaza, run by Himachal Roadways. Rohtang Pass is a two-hour journey from Manali. To enjoy the real beauty of the region of Spiti tourists usually enter from the side of Manali via Rohtang and Kunzum La.The time to cover the distance between Manali and Rohtang is around 2 hours. Then the drive to Kaza takes at least eight to ten hours.

The time taken to traverse a particular road distance will depend on the conditions of the roads and the number of breaks you take en route. At times the travel might be deterred by roadside construction crew. There would also be some small places to eat. The first is located in the Chhatru Village, which has a Government Guest House. The shops sell Indian meals, both veg and non-veg.Kanzum Pass is the most elevated point and remains snow covered. It is a five-hour journey from Rohtang pass, which offers a scintillating view of Shigri Glacier.

Spiti Lahual can also be approached alternately from Shimla and the journey starts from Kinnaur Valley. The connecting road is an all-weather road extending till Kaza. Compared to the other route, this route is lengthier and offers more splendid view of the typical Himalayan terrain. While traversing through the Shimla route an overnight stay at Reckong Peo is recommended. Permit is essential for foreign visitors and identity proof for nationals.

Places to visit

Gompas or monasteries are key visiting places in this area. Lamas, as the monks are called locally, are always the best guide for the tourists. The monks can give very interesting information related to the monasteries and unlock a horde of memories that can make even a story-teller feel envious. Photography is generally restricted and people are advised to seek permission before taking photographs of interiors or the prayer halls.

  • Key Gompa or Key Monastery: It is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery and is located in a strikingly beautiful hill top amidst the Spiti Valleyat an altitude of 4,166 metres with the Spiti River flowing at the back drop. This monastery is the oldest and the biggest one in the entire Lahaul and Spiti region. It is also a religious training centre for around 300 Lamas who receive their religious discourse here. It was founded by Dromtön in the 11th century. It is located approximately 12 kms from Kaza and 8 kms from another village called Kibber Village.

  • Saskyagongmig Gompa or the Tangyud Monastery: This monastery has a unique charm and is situated at a village called Komic in the Spiti Valley. It is located 2 kms away from Hikkim of Spiti Valley. This monastery is like a fortified castle situated on the edge of a deep canyon and has fascinating slanted mud walls ad battlements. The colours look bright and striking with red ochre and white vertical stripes. It is situated at an astonishing height of 4520 metres and overlooks the town of Kaza. The Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary is located adjacent to this beautiful monastery.

  • Dhankar Gompa: This 1000 years old monastery is truly fascinating on account of the location. The monastery is artistically perched among the rocks and even provides accommodation to travellers at a minimal rate of INR 150. This rate includes stay complete with basic food served at particular meal times. It is located 35 kms from Kaza. Due to the changing climatic conditions in the recent ages, this monastery has been heavily damaged because of heavy rains and mudslides. It is designed to take the atrocities of heavy snowfall but not rains. Heritage conscious travellers may donate generously to ‘Save Dhankar Monastery Fund’ to save this beautiful piece of architectural marvel.

  • Tabo Monastery– This monastery is located around 50 kms from Kazaand was built way back in 996 AD. It can be easily marked as the oldest operational Buddhist monastery. Tourists will enjoy the original wall paintings and artifacts that have been preserved till date with a lot of care.

  • Gungri Monastery– This is a Nyigma monastery and was founded by Padmasambhava way back in 1330AD. It is located in the heart Pin Valley around 18 kms in the interiors.

  • Chandra Taalalso called the Lake of the moon as the name translates is a mesmerizing natural lake surrounded by striking hill beauty.

  • Khoksar: Khoksar is famous for being the entry point for Lahaul. This village can also be termed as the gateway for Lahaul. It is located at a stupendous altitude of 3140 meters and stretches peacefully on the right bank of Chandra River. Winters always find Khoksar River heavily covered with thick snow as the water remains frozen. This region is undoubtedly the coldest point of Lahaul during winter season.

  • Sissu:Sissu is a quaint and peaceful village spread at an altitude of approximately 3130 meters. It is located on the right bank of Chandra River. This village sports a flat ground and both sides of the village roads are amazingly lined by a good plantation of poplars and willows. These plantations are so dense that sunlight cannot penetrate the vegetation even during summer times.

Things to do

  • Treks: Lahual and Spiti Valleys are well known for being a trekker’s paradise.There are popular treks that can be arranged locally from any village. You can enjoy village homestay and undertake 3 to 4 hours of local trek daily to explore the beauty of every nook and corner of this valley.
  • Spiti Trek: The Spiti trek will unfold the fascinating life of the localSpitian people. Trekkers enjoy the local flavour comprising their life style, way of living, cuisine and their irrigation and agricultural practice. The trekkers also find a lot of adventure at the thought of visiting a land with the rarest of rare species of wildlife.

  • Spiti Safari:It is a popular trekking place in Himachal Pradesh. This trek is surrounded by the Kullu Valley, Ladakh and Tibet with Lahaul and Spiti.

  • Go for an adventurous trek across the rugged and wild terrain in the Deotshidh Forest area. The trekking path that leads from Shahtalai to Deotsidh through thick forest makes for an excellent and thrilling trekking expedition.
  • Thangka Painting workshop inKaza, Spiti, is definitely worth a try. The interested tourists and travellers can also take part in the Thangka painting workshop and get to know the rich monastic traditions of Spiti a lot better. Taught by professionals who are proficient inThangka painting, one gets a chance to learn the art by studying at least 1000 year old murals that are preserved in the main monasteries of Spiti, namely Tabo, Gomic, Key, Dhankar and Losar.

  • Kanamo Peak is an altitude of 5964metres and is locatedbehind Kibber Village. This peak can be easily accessed in less than three days travelling from the Kibber side. Kibber is the highest-altitude village.

Where to stay (Best 5 Hotels)

  • Hotel Dekyid, Lahaul and Spiti in Keylong gives a chance to leisure travellers to enjoy the fascinating charm of the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys in an unpolluted environment and a superbly tranquil surrounding. This hotel excels in personalized service and warm hospitality to its guests. Amenities of this hotel include mouth-watering dishes and comfortable rooms in the midst of a panoramic valley among many others. It is located close to Tayul Monastery, which is approximately 3 km away and the Kardang Gompa, which is within a range of 1 km.

  • The Nomads Cottage, Dead City in Losar is a traditional style Spiti home located in the picture perfect surrounding of the Losar Village. It can be earmarked at the most luxurious homestay in the Lahaul and Spiti region. The cottages are equipped with terrace and seating area for guests and kitchen provided with refrigerator, washing machine, heart-warming fireplace, sofa to relax, luggage storage and laundry facilities. It offers mesmeric view of the mountains beyond and the river flowing by.

  • Hotel Chanderbhaga in Keylong has a genuine locational advantage in the most beautiful part of the town. Stay here is bound to be comfortable and memorable on account of the beauty of the surroundings.

  • Hotel IBEX Jispa is located along the highway of NH21. It is situated beside the Bhag River and boasts of being a neat and clean place. The rooms are moderately spacious and it offers good food.
  • Hotel Dewachen Retreat located in the Tabo Village of Lahaul and Spiti offers a tranquil ambience in the heart of nature’s magnificent beauty. The traditional and comfortable rooms, the spectacular natural beauty all around, food and traditional comfy rooms, proximity to famous Tabo Monastery makes for an ideal stay. Other basic amenities include prompt room service, front desk support all round the clock, parking, travel desk and emergency doctor-on-call.

How to go around

Kaza is the ideal base for travelling to Spiti Valley. Once Shimla and Manali are crossed, accommodation tends to be very basic with a few moderate hotels in Kaza. Himachal Roadways operate buses from Kaza to nearby areas. Hiring of local vehicles is common and hotel managers help tourists and travellers a lot in these bookings.

Dilapidated buses ply across the windy mountain roads but are not very regular. Bike tours across this enigmatic terrain are a special attraction for enthusiastic bikers deriving pleasure out of never-ending adventure. Trekking or walking along the mountain roads is also exhilarating.

Fests & Fairs

Ladarcha Fair

This fair is held at the Kibbar Maidan in Spiti during the month of July. In this fair, you can see the traders travelling from Ladakh, Kinnaur, Rampur Busher, Kullu, Lahaul and Spiti carrying their prized barter products for exchange or trading. Because of the Tibetan borders being closed in the recent times, this fair has shifted to Kaza. The time of fair has also changed to third week of August. This fair is now a wonderful medley of Spiti, Ladakh and Kinnaur culture.

Pauri Fair

This fair, celebrated in the summer month of August every year, is the most outstanding fair of Lahaul. This fair sees a conglomeration of people from Lahual as well as Chamba and Kullubelonging to different castes and creeds. It projects an interesting combination of pilgrimage and festive activities. Preparations start a week in advance and people start gathering a day before the celebrations leaving their homes. Pilgrims complete their experience with a darshan or visit to the statue of Triloknath or Lord Shiva who is known as the Lord of Three Worlds. Lord Shiva is reverently regarded as Avolokiteshvara by the Buddhists. Pilgrims indulge in visiting theParikrama Gallery and complete three or seven clockwise circumambulations of the gallery all the while rotating the prayer wheels and chanting Mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum.Lamps are lighted with ghee and mustard oil bought with the money donated by people. After offering prayers and completing the rituals the fair begins. Fair has temporary shops, tea stalls and hotels to accommodate the influx of crowds. Pilgrim dance in huge circle, melody of folk songs, traditional processionheaded by the Thakur of Triloknath riding on a decorated horse form the highlights.

Tribal Fair at Keylong

This Tribal Fair coincides with the Independence Day celebrations and is celebrated grandly from 14th to 16th August. This fair sees a congregation of Indian and foreign tourists who curiously gather at the fair to watch and experience its uniqueness. It is a state-level colourful fair and is thronged by artists and cultural troupes who are invited from far and nearby areas such as Chandigarh, Dharamshala, Leh, Chamba, Kullu and Spiti. It also forms a platform for the local artistes.

Tsheshu Fairs

Tsheshu fair is celebrated in several monasteries such as Shashur, Gemur, Kyi, Kardang Tabo and Mane.These monasteries see a large number or tourists, travellers and devotees in the month of June to enjoy the celebrations. Lamas perform a unique devil dance wearing elaborate costumes and colourful dresses accompanied by masks of different birds and animals.

Festival of Light

Diwali or the festival of lights is celebrated every year in these regions similar to the rest of the part of the country. A similar type of celebration is brought forth in the name of Khogla in Pattan valley, which is known by Halda in the other valleys of Lahaul. These celebrations generally occur in the month of January. Pencil cedar branches are chopped into small sized pieces and bundles are formed by tying them together. Then these bundles are lighted and are known as Halda or the torch which resembleHola of Shimla. The ritual says that in the evening the halda is lit at every house and carried at a central place in the village. After repeating this ritual four to five times to honour various different deities, the villagers return home.

Fagli

Fagli festival is locally known as Kus or Kuns. It is an important festival of Pattan valley and is celebrated in first or second week of February. During this festival, houses are decorated with glowing oil lamps anda Baraza or a bamboo stick about 2 to 3 feet tall is set up on the floor. A white cloth is draped around the stick to resemble an angel dressed in white, resting in the corner decorated with jewellery and flowers. Delicious dishes are offered to the Baraza and incense sticks are burnt. This ceremony is believed to bring prosperity to the household. Ritual also demandsthat the head of the family and his wifeprepare totu, which is nothing but a dough of roasted barley flour and butter milk and kwari. The Totu is thenoffered to the deities and later distributed among the close ones as prasada. Homage is paid to the cattle comprisingcows and sheep as a mark of showing gratitude for their dependence of livelihood on these animals. The feet of elders are touched and blessings are sought. Symbolic ploughing is carried out on the frozen fields. Week-long feasts and festivities continue and merry-making thrives among relatives and friends along with exchange of gifts and flowers.

Gothsi or Gochi

This is another unique festival of the region celebrated in the Bhaga valleyin the month of February particularly in the houses where a son was born in the previous year. The villagers gather in the morning at some place and prepare a dough of Sattu or roasted barley, which is placed in a big plate and lifted by four men to be carried to the village deity, which might be an idol of stone, a tree or a simple bush. A young girl accompanies the procession dressed in finery and jewellery. The girl carries a pot of chhang or a local drink while the two men following her carrya burning stick of pencil cedar and pencil cedar leaves tied together in a lamb skin. The village priest known as the Labdagpa worships with a bow and an arrow followed by breaking the dough and throwing it away to please the deity. Drum beating, drinking and dancing mark the celebrations throughout the nights.

Climate

Lahaul and Spiti have summer from May to mid-October. There is hardly any rainfall during these summer months. The maximum temperature reaches to 30º Celsius and the minimum temperature dips to around 15º Celsius during summers. Whilethe days are warm the nights are cold. Light woollens are needed to keep warm at nights. Continuous sunshine during day times turn the valleys bright and lush green. This is the ideal season for trekkers and mountain climbers to enjoy the beauty of Lahaul and Spiti Valleys. In the summers, the high-altitude passes are also accessible and the climate is ideal for visitors.

The winter season extends from November to April when the temperatures fall below freezing with an average snowfall ofaround 7 feet. Heavy snow cordons off this area from the rest of the world. Tourism turns bleak during winter months.

Ideal Itinerary

Spiti & Lahaul Itinerary (3D/2N)

Day 1Nako to Kaza

From Nako continue for a smooth drive to Tabo.

  • Visit the Gue Village to see the 650 year old mummy. It is kept on the hill top in the village in a temple and is worth a visit.

  • Visit the fascinating Tabo Monastery said to be a thousand years old.

  • Next stop further away from Tabo is Dhankar that is famous for two monasteries and the Dhankar Lake.

After Dhankar, it is a straight and smooth road to Kaza. Overnight stay at Kaza in the heart of peace and solitude of the wondrous high-altitude desert.

Day 2 Kaza

Wake up early to the enchanting beauty of the rocky barrenness of the Kaza Valley. Get prepared to imbibe the beauty of Kaza.

Day2 will begin at Kaza. Visit the beautiful Tangyud Monastery, Key Monastery, Kibber village, Gette Village and Langza village famous for presents of marine fossils, and the Pin Valley National Park, a protected area for Himalayan high altitude wildlife.

  • Proceed for the first enchanting Key Gompa or Key Monasterylocated in a strikingly beautiful hill top with the Spiti River flowing beside.

  • Also visit the Saskyagongmig Gompa or the Tangyud Monastery situated in the Komic village that is built like a fortified castle at the edge of a deep canyon and is extremely picturesque.

  • Kibber Village is unique and is the highest motorable village in the world with a beautiful monastery and the famous Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary. It is situated close to the famous Key Monastery.

  • Gette Village is a village of 75 houses and 306 people is a peaceful picturesque village

  • Langza Village or the fossil village of Spiti Valley at a height of 14,000 feet on the foothills of 20,000 feet high mountain ranges where the sky meets the earth and the brown mixes with the blue. The snow-covered grandeur and star strewn stark sky makes the place amazing and beyond comparison.

After the day’s wander and wonder return to the hotel in Kaza for an overnight stay. Catch up with the beauty of the place and have some serene moments of togetherness with the close ones. Have a leisurely dinner and retire to room for a peaceful sleep.

Day 3 Departure from Kaza and homeward journey

Wake up to a new day and wind up to reach back home. Time to bid adieu to the serene and misty Kaza! Our representative will see you off from the lovely Spiti Valley.

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