INDIA TRAVEL - SPITI VALLEY(THE HIDDEN PARADISE) - EVERYTHING YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE GOING

Hello Friends! I hope you must have heard about Spiti Valley. This is a hidden paradise in the lap of great Himalayas, with virgin beauty and natural splendor. Surrounded by huge mountains on all sides, it's rustic charm would take your breath away. Add to it adventure options, and you have a dream vacation waiting for you.

ABOUT SPITI VALLEY -  This is basically a desert valley located at a very high altitude in Himalayas, in Himachal Pradesh state of India. Word Spiti means "middle land" and it has been given this name because it separates India from Tibet. Located at a height of 12500 ft(3800 m), it is a part of Lahaul and Spiti district, with it's headquarter at Kaza, which is around 5.5 kms(3.4mi) from Spiti. Kaza is located on the banks of the river by the same name i.e. Spiti river. The Spiti river originates from Kunzum range and it's tributaries are Tegpo and Kabzian. After travelling for about 150 kms(94 mi), it meets river Satluj in Kinnaur.

Spiti valley and it's surrounding areas are very sparsely populated and infact have the least population in India. The local people here follow Vajrayana Buddhism and the valley serves as a research and cultural centre for Buddhism. It has the oldest Buddhist monasteries which include Tabo monastery, which is favorite of the Dalai Lama. A few surviving Bachen Lamas of Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism can be found in the Pin valley nearby.
Since it is a mountain desert, there is scarcely any vegetation. However, fluttering of prayer flags and monks in their robes will mesmerize you. You will find similarities with Tibet. The crystal clear rivers, snow capped hills, glaciers, architecture of ancient monasteries, the forests and the quietness will leave you spellbound.

Picture of Spiti Valley
SPITI VALLEY

ROAD TO SPITI VALLEY -  High mountains surround Lahaul and Spiti and it is separated from Kullu Valley by Rohtang pass which is at a height of 13054 ft(3979 m) and are cutoff from each other by Kunzum pass which is higher in altitude at 15059 ft(4590 m). Due to heavy snow, the road connecting these two is frequently closed during winters. Also, during winter storms, from November to June, the southern road is also closed but is restored within few days after the storms and valley is accessible via Shimla and Satluj in Kinnaur district.
Spiti valley is accessible via Kinnaur from Shimla throughout the year. The road is difficult and is 412 km(256 mi) long. Foreign nationals are required to get inner line permits to enter Spiti Valley via Kinnaur. However, during summers, it can be reached through Rohtang pass and Kunzum pass via Manali, which is about 201 km(125 mi) from Kaza, the district headquarter of Lahaul and Spiti. There is a 8.8 km(5.5 mi) long tunnel in Rohtang pass, which is open in all weathers, which reduces the travel distance by 48 kms(30 mi).

ADVENTURE IN SPITI VALLEY -  There are quiet a few trekking trails and mountain biking sites available in and around Spiti. Some of the popular trekking trails are Pin-Parvari, Parang-La and Pin Bhaba. Kunzum pass, which serves as an entrance to Spiti Valley, leads to Bara Sigri glacier. It is the second highest glacier in the world.


WHAT TO SEE IN SPITI VALLEY -  There are a number of Monasteries and gompas here, which represent the traditions and ancient culture of Spiti. Apart from these, there are many other spots to visit, which will enthrall you with their sheer beauty.

1. Komick Village - This is the highest village of Asia. It is very sparsely populated(estimated to be just around 120). But the picturesque mountains surrounding it make it a must see place. It also is famous for Lunduptsomo Gompa Monastery.

Village Komick in Spiti
KOMICK VILLAGE

2. Losar Village - The first village you find on entering Spiti from Kunzum pass is Losar village. It is situated at a height of 13400 ft(4100 m). The houses here are mostly made of mud and have prayer flags of Buddhism fluttering atop them.. Surrounded by colorful mountains, it provides a very scenic view. The village has it's own monastery.
3. Chandra Taal lake - It means moon lake. Situated at a height of 14100 ft(4300 m). Taal means a pond or a pool. It is called so because it has a crescent shape. Though it is in barren land but it is very beautiful. But during spring time, it has vast stretches of green and a variety of wild flowers. It houses the best camping sites.

Chandra Taal Lake in Spiti Valley
CHANDRA TAAL LAKE

4. Udaipur of Himachal - The most famous spot here is the Marikula Mata Temple. This picturesque hamlet is located on the banks of river Chandrabhaga. Both Hindus as well as Buddhists consider it a holy pilgrimage site. It is situated at a height of 8500 ft(2743 m). Udaipur and Keylong are the two important pilgrimage sites in Lahaul and Spiti. This temple is a mix of Hindu and Buddhist architecture. Add to this the greenery and breathtaking views, it becomes a very charming place. It is one of the more popular camping sites.
However, you have to carry your own food and water if you wish to visit this place. There are no hotels or restaurants in Udaipur and the nearest place is Keylong.

Marikula Mata Temple in Spiti Valley
MARIKULA MATA TEMPLE

5. Key Monastery - This Buddhist monastery is over 1000 years old and is the oldest learning cebter of Lamas. Situated at a height of 13668 ft(4200 m), it is famous for it's architectural style called Pasada style. This style often plays the role of Fort Monastery. It has three floors. A basement, ground and first floor. Basement serves as stock store. Ground floor has a large meeting hall called Du-Khang and some small rooms for monks. Rooms are decorated with murals called Tangyar and are must see. Ancient weapons and rare thangkas are other attractions here. A sizeable collection of musical instruments like trumpets, cymbars and drums can also be seen here. And don't miss the statue of Buddha in dhyana(meditation).

Again, no restaurants or hotels are available here. You must carry your own food and water.

Key Monastery in Spiti Valley
KEY MONASTERY

6. Pin Valley National Park - Situated at an altitude of 11500 to 20000 ft(3300 to 6000 m), Pin Valley National Park is spread over a core zone of 675 sq. km and has a buffer zone of 1150 sq. km. Located in the cold desert area of Lahaul and Spiti, it was constituted in the year 1987.

Pin valley National Park houses over 20 species of animals and birds. The main among them is the endangered snow leopard. Other animals found here include Siberian ibex, bharal, weasel, red fox and marten. The species of birds found here are pika, golden eagle, snow cock, bearded vulture, chukor, griffon, Himalayan chough and raven. Best season to visit this park is in winters as animals migrate to lower regions because of cold weather.
Besides wildlife, park also boasts of floral wealth. It has over 400 species of plants including herbs. Two rare species of plants namely Juniper and Birch are also found here.
The park's periphery has 17 villages, all of them thinly populated. The total population of these villages comes to about 1600 only.
Foreign nationals are not allowed inside the park and even Indian citizens also have to get a permit to enter the park.
Once again, you have to carry your own food and water with you.

HOWTO REACH - 
By Air - Nearest airport is Kullu, which is about 247 km(155 mi) from Spiti Valley. From here you can hire taxi.
By Rail - Nearest rail station is Shimla on the narrow gauge. However, the nearest major rail station is Kalka which is 90 km(56 mi) from Shimla. Spiti Valley is about 445 km(278 mi) from Shimla. Again, you can hire a taxi from Shimla.
By Road - Spiti is connected by road with Shimla, Kullu and Manali.

WHERE TO STAY -  There are some hotels in Spiti. But not many. A few rest houses and tourism guest houses are available along with some hotels in Kaza. A lot of accommodation is available in Keylong, which is the headquarter of Lahaul. Guest houses are available in Kaza, Tobo, Losar, Poh and Sagna in Spiti.
You can look for homestay options also, if you want to acquaint yourself with local people and culture. The best part is that your money doesn't go to owner only, part of it goes to community also. You can find homestays in six villages. They are Langza, Komick, Demul, Lhalung, Dhankar and Mikkim.
You can get Indian and Tibetan food in and around Kaza. And there are some ethnic restaurants in Spiti, which specialize in Tibetan and local delicacies.

FESTIVALS -  Locals celebrate festivals like burning the devil, Chaam dance and Pauri festival. During winters, even locals don't venture out of their homes. They stock the food for this period and engage themselves in making handicrafts.

WHEN TO VISIT -  The best time to visit Soiti Valley is May to October. Usually the weather is good and the temperature ranges from 10 to 22 degrees Celsius.

So whether you love adventure or are looking for peace, inclined towards spirituality or are admirer of nature. Spiti Valley is the place to be in.


2 comments:

  1. Wow such an insightful article!! I've always wanted to go to Spiti! And love the photos, breathtaking!! Xxx Blossom

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Blossom. Yes Spiti is an amazing place. Glad you liked the post.

    ReplyDelete