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Long winding roads and picturesque valleys presenting glimpses of cold deserts and snow-crowned mountains, with intermittent greenery and picture-perfect villages welcome you when you set foot into Spiti Valley. Bordered on all sides by the Himalayas, Spiti Valley, located in Himachal Pradesh, has an altitude of 12,500 feet above sea level, and gets around 250 days of sunshine in the year, making it one of the coldest places in the country. With the thick Himalayan snow cutting Spiti off from the rest of the country for around 6 months a year, the summer months are the only time Spiti is directly accessible via motorway.
The term Spiti means 'The Middle Land', and the place is very appropriately named, as Spiti Valley separates India from Tibet. Scantily populated, Spiti is an adventure lover’s paradise, with the famed Spiti trek attracting thousands of adventure enthusiasts every year. There are many trekking trails in Spiti that tourists can choose from. All of these treks start from Kaza (Spiti’s capital, where you make your base camp), to various peaks from where you can get panoramic views of the Himalayan mountains. An easy 1.5-kilometre trek along the Spiti River from Dhankar Monastery to Dhankar Lake promises gorgeous views of the villages below, and the Dhankar Lake itself is a place where you can sit back and relax amidst the cool mountain air.
The mountain ropeway from Kibber to Chichum is a popular tourist attraction. Built entirely by the locals to avoid walking the long uphill path between the two villages, this ropeway is operated manually, and offers spectacular views of the gorge below, as well a bird’s eye view of the surrounding peaks.
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Popularly known as the cold desert mountain, "Middle Land" or "Little Tibet", Spiti Valley can be more aptly called as 'Trekking mecca and a virgin paradise'. Nestled in the Himalayan range in Himachal Pradesh, this desert terrain is sure to spellbind you. Further inward, ancient monasteries, quaint little habitations, snow-capped mountains, verdure forests, crystal clear rivers and magnificent glaciers make this picture perfect valley all the more enthralling and surreal. The breath-taking views and the untouched natural beauty will make your visit a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- The highways are a bit dangerous as most buses run at above normal speeds. Driving here should be done very carefully. Also during trekking one must ensure that the guide is well-informed of the terrain there and the food and water should be sufficient in quantity.
Paradise for adventurers. Mesmerising view of the mountains with fresh air.
Risky highways. Hostile in late monsoons and winters. Become deserted during the winters.
Ideal for all sorts of adventurers, whether trekking, or camping, or even hiking. Also suitable for backpackers from nearby sites like New Delhi, Shimla, Manali, etc.
Spiti literally means 'the Middle Land', situated between the region of India and the adjoining borders of the Tibet region of China, in the eastern part of the state of Himachal Pradesh. Strictly for trekkers and hikers, this is an adventurer's paradise. The terrain of this place is quite high and difficult. The Lahaul and Spiti district comprises of both the valleys which are separated by Kunzum pass.
You don’t have to be a strict nature lover or a bird-watcher to find the little village of Langzha endearing. All you have to do is simply sit on the isolated slopes of this village and look up at the sky in order to get thrilling glimpses of eagles, hawks and even vultures. There are a few other places in Spiti that allow you to catch a glimpse of these elusive birds, but the scenic landscape of Langhza heightens that thrill by quite a few notches.
Spiti Valley is known for housing some of the oldest monasteries in the country, such as the Key Monastery, which has a fort-like structure resembling traditional Chinese architecture and has a stunning Buddha Shrine on display. Other monasteries you can visit include the Tabo Monastery, the Lhalung Monastery, and the Gandhola Monastery.
Spiti has its fair share of lakes too, the most famous ones being Chandratal Lake and Suraj Tal Lake. Chandratal Lake derives its name from its crescent moon-like shape and is a photographer’s paradise. Suraj Tal lake is another famous lake in Spiti, and it is the third highest lake in all of India, making it an idyllic spot for camping.
High up in Spiti, roads are almost non-existent, so the idea of street food does not exist in Spiti. Thukpa is the standard fare of this little town, and it is a delicious respite from the bone-numbing chill which is perpetually present in the air.
The name "Spiti" means the middle land. Therefore, Spiti Valley is the middle land between India and Tibet. It has mixed culture and traditions of both the nations. It is a research centre for Buddhist due to its innumerable monasteries and temples. Tabo Monastery is the favourite of Dalai Lama and one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in the world. It is home to the few surviving Buchen Lamas of the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism. The life at Spiti often leads to monastic forms of living for most of its inhabitants. People of Spiti are superstitious- they talk of healing trees, spirits and monks possessing magical powers. People celebrate the local festivals and fairs. Tribal fair Keylong coincides with the Indian Independence day, falling between 14th to 16th of August; in which cultural troupes are invited to perform the state arts from Chandigarh, Dharamshala etc. There is also Ladarcha fair held annually in July. Traders from Ladakh, Rampur Busher and Spiti, meet to barter their produce.
For the much-awaited escapade to the mountains, Spiti is the go-to place for all you trekkers and backpackers out there. Here, we have a ready itinerary to make life easy for you.
Reach Rohtang or Solang Valley a day before and start for Kaza- headquarters of Spiti, via Rohtang Pass early in the morning. Spend some leisure time at Kunzum Pass on the way and the beautiful drive through Battal, Chattru and Gramphu. Spend the night at Kaza.
Drive to Tabo and visit the old monasteries and monk caves. On the way back to Kaza, visit the Dhankar villages and the famous Dhangkar Monastery. Drive through the less travelled roads of Langza. Visit the statue of Buddha and witness the great view of Chau Chau Kang Neldad peak. Enjoy the pleasing snowscape panorama and come back to Kaza for the night.
Visit the Ki- Kibber villages and the renowned Ki monastery. Enjoy the enthralling drive between Losar and Kaza. You can either camp at Chandratal or spend the night at a PWD rest house in Battal, which is without electricity. It is advisable to not ride back to Losar to save time and energy.
Drive through Battal - Chattru and Gramphu to Manali, back via Rohtang Pass. On your way back visit the beautiful Kunzun la Pass and end your trip on a high. Lastly, you can visit local sights in Manali and head back accordingly.
If you have additional days to spare, you can visit the Spiti river and indulge in river rafting or other adventure activities. Also, you can also visit Pin Valley National Park for a glimpse of Snow Leopards. It is a 1-hour drive to Pin Valley from Kaza and it will be worth your time.
Spiti's cuisine has an interesting mix of delicacies which one must indulge in. Though the Tibetan food dominates the platters here, one finds satisfying North-Indian food as well as a dash of Israeli food. The village sways with barley fields which is the biggest source of food. The grain is used to produce arrack (barley whisky), chang (barley beer); and roasted flour is made into laddoos or breakfast cereal called thungpa. The local food items that one should not miss include Momos, Thukpa, Butter tea, Chang (a locally made beer), Arkah (a locally made whiskey) and more. Other than these, flavoured and aromatic teas such as those with garnishes of lemon, mint, ginger, honey are quite popular.
Answer: Visiting Spiti Valley through Manali though is an enticing option (for those who are in a time crunch) is not recommended. The road to Spiti through Manali has drastic altitude changes which may be a cause of issue. You must know Himalayas though Majestic and Blissful are treacherous and in such a scenario visiting Spiti through Manali may induce a strong bout of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) in you. So it is always advisable to follow the Shimla Route to Spiti (through The Hindustan Tibet Highway) as the altitude changes are gradual and acclimatization shall not be an issue.
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