Spiti is a deserted mountain valley located high in the Indian Himalaya mountains. The name “Spiti” means “The Middle Land”, the land between Tibet and Ladakh.The valley lies in the North East of the Indian hill state of Himachal Pradesh, and forms part of the Lahul and Spiti district (province). The sub divisional headquarters (capital) is at Kaza, which is situated along the Spiti River at an elevation of about 3,800 metres (12,500 feet )above sea level. The main Spiti valley is split into eastern and western valleys. They are connected with Ladakh & Tibet on eastern side & Kinnaur and Kullu valleys on western side through high passes. Spiti valley is also know as the Cold Desert of The Himalayas, as the valley remains cut off from the rest of the world for the six months due to heavy snow. The valley is similar to valleys in Tibet and Ladakh, and it is more beautiful than those.
Spiti’s mountains form a part of the Central and Greater Himalayas and several peaks are over 6,000 metres providing unparalleled panoramic views from the valley. The valley and surrounding region is one of the least populated and isolated regions in India and is famous as the off beat tourism destination in Himalayas.The valley is also known as the tribal valley of Himachal- the Tribal People (hardworking mountain tribes) follow the same Buddhist culture as that of Tibet and Ladakh. For centuries people in these remote valleys lived largely isolated from one another, holding and preserving the treasures and secrets of ancient civilizations untainted by modernity unmatched outside these mountains. Spiti Valley has only been opened to tourists since 1992, and tourists have to obtain an inner line permit to visit some of the areas which are close to the Tibetian border.
Religion plays a major role in everyday life as piles of “mani” stones, colourful prayer flags inscribed with holy chants, and Chortens testify. The repetition of the holy mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”, is said to bring good fortune and wash away all sins. Traditionally the eldest son inherits everything and the other sons enter the monastery, this is still somewhat true today.
The fields are irrigated by snow melt that is channeled into ditches, a few crops of potatoes, peas and barley can be grown before the heavy winter snows. Many villagers keep yaks and horses. Yaks can be seen in the villages working in the fields or grazing in the past pastures.
Spiti valley is a research and cultural centre for Buddhism. There are about 30 big and small monasteries spread over the Spiti valley. The most famous of all are the mystical Kee monastery at Kaza (which is the biggest monastery), precariously perched atop a craggy cliff- Dhankar monastery, the frescoes and stucco statues of Tabo monastery (which is the oldest monastery in the whole Himalayas – 1012 years old), Kungri monastery (in the Pin valley). Most common wild animals found here are – Yak , the largest animal found in Himalayas, Bharal – known as the Himalayan blue sheep, snow ibex, Himalayan golden eagle and the Snow leopard which is found at a height of above 5,000 metres.
The Buddhist rich cultural heritage with old monasteries, high passes, remote valleys, clear blue water lakes, warm hearted people having the faces and physique more like those from Tibet than of India act as a draw to artists and explorers from all over the world. The valley is like a goldmine for the student of art and history, to a devotee and a seeker-the shrine is full of divine bliss and spiritual vibrations and to the explorer- the views of the high altitude desert, precipitous valleys, beautiful mountain treks , the Himalayan wildlife, the glaciers, high passes, beautiful lakes, rich traditions, beautiful is an experience one will never forget after a visit to the Spiti valley.
High altitude desert, precipitous valleys, mountain treks challenge even the most experienced walkers, and you can suddently come across a snow leopard – hunting the elusive Himalayan blue sheep.
The Spiti Valley is a very memorable and stunning place. We will take you there!
The Pin valley is a National Park, and is home to a variety of rare animals like the snow Leopard, the ibex, the Himalayan blue sheep and the thar. It also has very good treks with the magnificent view of Himalayas- the main treks route connects the Kullu valley over the Pin Parbati pass(5,319metres) and the other is through the Bhaba valley over Bhaba pass (4,900 metres) which connects Kinnaur valley to Pin valley. This valley also has several villages and monasteries. Kungri monastery in the valley is the most famous one which houses old relics and paintings and is the main center of the Nyingma-pa sect of Buddhism in Spiti valley. Kungri provides unmistakable evidence of tantric cult as practiced in Buddhism. Among the villages, Sagnam and Mud are the most beautiful.
Lingti Valley is a living geological museum and is the longest (60km) and largest side valley of Spiti. It is famous for fossils in a geological history dating back 250 million years. The largest collection of its ammonites and belemnites are kept at the Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge. Lingti valley with its traditional villages like Demul, Lalaung, Komik, Hikkim and Lagnza is the best to do in a village to village trek (Lingti valley Trek) and provides a very good chance of home stays with the local families in the village.
Tabo Monastery (Gompa) is the largest monastic complex in Spiti, and is the oldest monastery in the whole Himalayas. It was founded in 996 AD. The Tabo monastery is a complex that holds nine temples, 23 Chortens, a monks’ chamber and the extension houses a nuns’ chamber. According to His Holiness Dalai Lama, “The most important monastery- is Tabo, noted for its exquisite quality of paintings and stucco images that adorn its walls. These works of art delightfully express the vigour of the transmission of Buddhism from India to Tibet and the dynamic mingling of cultures. The monastery was originally built as a ‘mandala’ centering around the assembly hall of the temple of the “Enlightened Gods”. The assembly hall itself is a vivid representation of the “Vajradhatu Mandala”, with the four-fold Vairacana in dharmachakra pravartana pose sitting at the far end and flanked by 33 vajrayana deities.
The last village on the Indo-China border (Tibet) is famous for a naturally preserved mummy of a Buddhist monk which is about 600 years old and is just preserved due to the meditational quality of the monk or by the harsh and dry winds of the area. Nothing has been applied to the body to keep it preserved.
A little higher in elevation and above the main road, in one of the most dramatic settings of Spiti, is the village, fort (in ruins) and monastery of Dhankar. Earlier Dhankar was the traditional capital of Spiti and the King of Spiti used to rule the kingdom right from here. It is a small pretty village on a hill with an open view of valley down the side. Views are majestic from the top of the monastery and one can see vast expanses of the Spiti valley. The setting is so beautiful and dramatic that this monastery should not be missed. There is a fresh water lake about a 2.5 kms hike above Dhankar village at a height of 13,500 ft. The village is ideal for traditional home stays.
It is the administrative headquarters (Capital) of Spiti. It has a market place, medical facilities (hospital), a pump station, hotels and guest houses. It serves as the base for excursions to the nearby villages and monasteries including Key, Kibber, Lagnza Hikkim, and Komik.
12 kms from Kaza, above the left bank of river Spiti, lies the largest monastery in the valley which holds a powerful sway over the most populous part of the valley around Kaza. The gompa is an irregular jumble of low rooms and narrow corridors on a conical hill. The prayer chambers are interconnected by dark passages, tortuous staircases and small doors. Hundreds of monks receive their religious training in the monastery. It is also known for its beautiful murals, thanka paintings, rare manuscripts, stucco images and wind instruments that form part of the orchestra whenever Chham (the traditional Tibetan dance) is enacted in the monastery in the summer.
8 kms above the Ki monastery, Kibber village – until recently this was the highest permanently inhabited village in the Himalayas connected by a motorable road. Reaching Kibber village one is greeted by traditional houses, lush green fields which look strikingly refreshing against the arid backdrop of the snow capped mountains and peaks. A hike to the nearby mountains provides a chance to see some of the Himalayan wildlife from close. Snow ibex and Himalayan Blue Sheep are found in the nearby mountains in the evening times or early morning.
Over Parang La Pass( 5,580 metres), one of the most beautiful trails in the Western Himalayas starts from this village and takes 9-10 days to reach to the picturesque, turquoise water lake of Tso Moriri in Ladakh region. It is an old traditional trade route between Tibet and Ladakh.
It seems as if this is the top of the world. Panoramic views can be seen from here. There is a monastery in the village which is very old, with a large statue of Lord Buddha in the open, facing the central Himalayas. The houses are in traditionally Spiti style. You can see a lot of yaks grazing in the village grass land or working in the fields. The route to the natural fossil centre starts from the monastery at Lagnza, from where it is about a half hours walk to its base. The fossil centre ranges from an average altitude of 4400 metres to 4600 metres along a narrow stream and is best explored here. It might seem extremely tempting to pick up a few of these relics, but you are asked not to do so, as they are part of the Spiti heritage.
Mt. Chocho Khang Nilda is the third highest peak in Spiti and can be seen at the back of the village. Hiking up to the base camp of the mountain is possible with the help of your local guide. Langza is a pretty village for a home stay with a local family.
It is the gateway to Lahul valley or to Manali from Spiti. The Bara Shigri glacier can be seen in front of the pass. Snow covered mountains and glaciers can be seen throughout the year from the Kunzum Pass which is open in early June to mid October. Another interesting feature is one stone image in the temple on the pass – A currency coin wills stuck to the stone-in the temple on the pass, if devotee is acceptable to the Lord.
Also known as the “Lake of the Moon”, as on full moon night it appears as if the moon and the stars have come down to the lake. At full moon night the reflection of the moon and stars can be seen in lake water. The stars look much brighter and closer at the night time. At day the desolate snow capped mountains reflect in the lake water. It is the largest and broadest lake in the region (1km. in length). This clear blue water lake lies in a broad grassy plain with a presence of rugged mountains, snow covered peaks and it presents a picturesque beauty of nature to the visitors. It is approachable by a rough road from Batal (15 kms), just below the Kunzum Pass or either one can hike down from Kunzum Pass (6 kms) to the beautiful Lake.
As the Spiti valley is located in between the Central Himalayas and Great Himalayas, the climate of the area is very pleasant during summer and very cold in winter. The entire Spiti River Valley is in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, almost there are no monsoon rains in the area. The sky is amazingly blue during the summer months when people can visit this area and the stars are very bright.
Spiti Valley can be visited from Mid April to early November, but the best time to visit the Spiti valley is from June to mid October-as this is the time when the high passes open towards Manali or towards Ladakh valleys and one does not have to come back to Shimla. You can continue you journey towards the other destinations of Himalayas, which offer you to see more of the valleys and passes.
By Road:There are two routes to enter Spiti valley by road:
1. Shimla to Spiti valley through Kinnaur valley: It is the most popular route to travel to Spiti valley. The road passes through famous Kinnaur valley and you gain a gradual height (which helps you to acclimatize slowly and slowly while travelling to high Himalayas) while travelling on it. The road passes through beautiful villages, temple, and monasteries on the way. Shimla to Kaza (the sub divisional headquarters of Spiti) is 450 kms, while passing through Kinnaur valley. This is all the part of Tribal circuit (area) of Himachal Pradesh. While traveling through this route you can end up your journey at Manali over the Kunzum Pass (4,551 metres) and Rohtang Pass (3,980 metres), or one can take an overland journey from Shimla to Ladakh valley via Kinnaur and Spiti valley. Shimla is very well connected by Air, Rail & Road to New Delhi and rest of the parts in country. It is an all season road.
2. Manali to Kaza over Rohtang Pass (3,980 metres) & Kunzum Pass (4551 metres): The second option is the overland journey from Manali to Kaza (the sub divisional headquarters of Spiti) 210 kms, and a steep climb. The road is open only from early June to mid October, rest of the time due to heavy snowfall the high mountain passes remain closed.
By Air: There is no airport in the valley. The closet airport is Kullu airport (Manali), and Shimla airport, but there are no reghular flights to these airports.
By Train: There is no rail link to the Spiti valley. Nearest rail head for Spiti valley is Shimla, which is connected to the World heritage toy train (narrow gauge line) from Kalka to Shimla. Kalka is very well connected to New Delhi and other parts of the country by a broad gauge line.