lahul & spiti


Lahaul and Spiti are perfect locations for nature lovers and trekkers too. Located at an altitude of 3340 m in the north eastern corner, these are the two remote villages of Himachal Pradesh. Before these two districts were combined, the Lahaul capital was Kardang and Dhankar was the capital of Spiti. But now, these are spread over an area of 13835 sq. km and as per 2001 census, the total populations of these districts were recorded around 33,224. The breathtaking snow capped hills and the craggy beauty of these regions lure the travelers. Lahaul and Spiti are two isolated Himalayan valleys of Himachal Pradesh that lie on the Indo-Tibet border. A beautiful land of captivating Buddhist art and culture- Lahaul is distinguished by inflicting mountains and glaciers while the vegetation, climate and the landscape of Spiti are similar to that of Tibet. That's why the village of Spiti is also popular as 'Little Tibet'.<br>

A mountainous cold desert freckled with green patches over a dry weather-beaten face, fascinating valleys, windswept landscapes and quiet villages, Spiti, which loosely translates as ‘the middle land’. The geographic placement passes a heavy influence of Buddhism and stark cultural similarities of the region into the valley.
Religion plays a major role in everyday life, testified by the piles of ‘mani’ stones, whitewashed chortens that house Buddhist relics, and prayer flags fluttering relentlessly in thin air. Echoes of ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ (literally, ‘Behold the Jewel in the Lotus’) by all bring good fortune and prosperity to the distant land. Novelist Rudyard Kipling in his book ‘Kim’ describes Spiti as ‘a world within a world,’ ‘a place where the gods live’ – something that holds true to the present day.
For centuries, Spiti has had an introversive culture where life remained focused around its monasteries. It was loosely ruled by hereditary waziers, a self-styled ‘Nono’, and in between for brief periods, the valley was also attacked by invaders from neighbouring kingdoms. Spiti faced attacks from the warring princely states of Kullu and Ladakh in a bid to control the area. An army from Jammu and Kashmir led by generals Ghulam Khan and Rahim Khan invaded Spiti in 1841 AD. A few years later in 1846, a Sikh army too raided the valley. Finally, East India Company took control of Spiti in 1846 after cessation of cis-Sutlej States on conclusion of the first Anglo-Sikh War. On the ground, nothing changed and the Nono of Kyuling continued to rule as the hereditary Wizier of Spiti.
In the last two decades, tourism has caught up fast in the valley that stayed in hides for so long, thanks to the surreal moonscapes, scenic Himalayan lakes and the harsh highlands nourished by prayers at thousand-old monasteries that overlook the grey ribbon of the Spiti River. The glacial stream brings with it an abundance of goodwill and hope of life to the inhabitants. A slice of the moon landed on earth that drapes travellers in its pristine beauty in a way leaving them soulful but never satisfied, such is the charm of Spiti.
Get on a winding road leading to the highest motorable village of Komic or a narrow trail in the rugged terrain well-accompanied by stunning landscapes on all sides, and experience the untamed land of solitude and spiritualism first-hand.

Language: Natives communicate in Stod Bhoti, a subgroup of the Tibetic languages spoken in the Lahaul and Spiti. Hindi and English are understood and spoken by the people engaged in tourism trade.
Clothing essentials: Owing to its high altitudes and sub-zero-temperatures, Spiti remains cold throughout the year. The temperature during the months of May-June barely touch between 15-20 degrees Celsius but in deep winter of December-February it can fall as low as around minus 20 degree Celsius in some places. April to October is a good time to visit Spiti but always pack some woollens on a journey to this land for the temperature can suddenly drop, making warm clothing essential out there. By September, heavy woollens are recommended as evenings can get really cold .

The capital of the Spiti sub-district is Kaza (STD Code: 01906). The Spiti valley has around 30 monasteries and is often referred to as "little Tibet."

Founded in the sixteenth century, the Kyi Gompa is the largest and the oldest monastery in the Spiti Valley, supporting a thriving community of lamas. It is located at a height of about 4116 meters above sea level. The Chaam festival, held in the month of June/July, is a much-awaited event of this gompa.

Kibber or Khyipur is 11 km from Kyi Gompa, and is the highest settlement in the world (4205 meters) with a motorable road and electricity. The Ladarcha festival held here each July attracts Buddhists from all over the world.

The Tabo Gompa is the largest monastery complex of Buddhist religion. This has been declared as a protected monument. It was built in ad 996 by Ringchen Zangpo and has been declared as the place where the current Dalai Lama will retire. Its sculptures, stucco images and wall paintings are similar to the Ajanta-Ellora paintings. It is situated at an attitude of 3050 m. There are nine temples in the complex all dating from 10th to the 16th century.

The Dhankar Gompa was built nearly 1000 years ago and has seen many upheavals in its history, from being the capital of Spiti to that of a jail. It is situated at an altitude of 3870 m, and is 23 km from Tabo. Around 1 km away is a new monastery, which is worth a visit.

The Pin Valley, south of the Dhankar gompa, has been declared as a national park, where one might see the snow leopard. The 600-year-old Kungri Gompa here is worth a visit.

On the road from Kaza to Keylong is Kunzam, a mountain pass at an attitude of 4551 meters, with a temple of Kunzam Devi. One can also trek from here to the famous and beautiful moon lake Chandratal (4070 m). Asia's biggest glaciers, Bada and Chotta Sigri, can be seen from here. At Gondhla, one can visit the seven-storey castle of the Thakur of Gondhla. The Guru Ganthal gompa, in Tupchiling, 4 km away, is about 800 years old and an important site to visit.

Keylong is the headquarter of the Lahaul sub-district. It is located in the fertile valley of Bhaga.

The Khardong Gompa stands just opposite the Bhaga Valley from Keylong. This 900-year-old monastery belongs to the Drukpa Kagyud order and has some beautiful frescoes.

The Shahsur Gompa is located nearly 3 km from Keylong. The monastery belongs to the Gelukpa order and is dedicated to a lama from Zanskar. This 16th-century monastery is the venue for an annual festival held every June-July. The festival is marked by music, masked dances and the unveiling of a five-meter-long thangka (Buddhist scroll painting).

In Lahaul, the trek route goes from Darcha in the Bhaga Valley over the Shingo La pass (5090 m) to Zanskar. The trailhead, on the main highway, can be reached by bus from Manali, 145 km south. The trail itself winds up the east bank of the Barai or Khade Nala over the pass to Kurgiakh, the highest village in Zanskar. From Kurgiakh, it takes seven more days to hike down the Tsarap Lingti Valley to Padum. Among the more amazing sights en route is the famous Phuktal gompa, a four-hour side trip from the main path. This may be a safe way to trek in July and August, but one should definitely not rely on finding food and shelter here at the start or end of the season.

Lahaul's other trekking route, which follows the river Chandra north to its source at the Baralacha Pass (5100 m), makes a good extension to the Hampta Pass hike. Alternatively, one can catch the daily Kaza bus from Manali to the trailhead at Batal, below Kunzam La. About 3 km beyond the bridge, a track bifurcates left off the main road to climb towards Chandratal Lake, a relentless seven-hour slog from Batal. The next campground is at Tokping Yongma torrent. Tokpo Yongma, the second of the two torrents, is quite precarious.

From Baralacha la, crossed by the Manali-Leh highway, the trail to Zanskar via the 5435-m Phirtse La is a challenging alternative to the Darcha-Shingo La-Kurgiakh route above. This ten-day trek involves lots of difficult stream crossings and strenuous climbing.

In Spiti, starting 24 km southeast of Kaza, a trail heads south along the right bank of the river Pin, past a string of traditional settlements and monasteries to Ghurguru. Here it forks into two-the northern path over the Pin-Parvati Pass (4802 m) to Manikaran in the Parvati Valley, and the southern one to Wangtu in Kinnaur via the Bhaba Pass (4865 m).

 BY AIR -
The nearest airport to Lahaul and Spiti is Buntar airport in Kullu. This airport is well-connected to important cities of India such as Delhi and Chandigarh, through regular flights. The airport is 160 km from Keylong, through Rohtang Pass and it is 40 km from Manali. Private cab/jeep or state-run bus service can be availed to reach Lahaul and Spirit Valley.

BY RAIL -
Jogindernagar is a narrow gauge railhead the nearest to Lahaul and Spiti. Chandigarh station is another nearest railway station. From this station, the valley is accessible via Shimla and Manali. Opt for a taxi or a bus to reach your destination.

BY ROAD -
The valley of Lahaul and Spiti is accessible from two sides- from Kullu-Manali and from Shimla. If you are travelling from Shimla, drive on National Highway number 22 and you reach Tabo in Spiti. Or in case, you are coming from Manali, you first arrive in Keylong town, the district headquarters of Lahaul. In order to reach Keylong, one drives past the well-known Rohtang pass. This road is covered with snow during the winter months. You can either opt for a private jeep/car. The other option is going for state-run bus service.
  • Heavens Inn Spiti
  • Delek House
  • Spiti hotel
  • Hotel Snow Land
  • Hotel Gyopsa
  • Tourist Bungalow - Keylong
  • Hotel Snow View
  • Hotel Moonlight
  • Hotel Jambala- Kaza
Spiti, also known as the “Middle Land”, is a trans- Himalayan terrain located in the north-eastern part of Himachal Pradesh in India. The name “Spiti” means “The Middle Land”, i.e. the land between Tibet and India. Spiti valley is a place. Spiti valley is home to some of the oldest monasteries (Tabo, Sherkhang and Dhankar- all around 1000 years old), highest motorable villages in Asia (Langza and Komic), highest post office in the world (Hikkim), Chandrataal lake, beautiful and vast landscape, ancient and intact culture and simple people. Spiti valley possesses a distinctive Tibetan Buddhist culture similar to that found in Tibet and Ladakh region of India.

Along the northern route from Manali or Keylong via the Rohtang or Kunzum Pass respectively, the valley lies in the North East of the Indian hill state of Himachal Pradesh, and forms part of the Lahaul and Spiti district.
Lahaul and Spiti Valley lies northwards of the Pir Panjal ranges, in the rain shadow region, the best time to visit Lahaul and Spiti is between the months of May to October. The weather is quite pleasant at this time and is ideal for sightseeing as well as other activities. The rains are occasional. The sun shines brightly so the days are warm but there is certain amount of chill in the air during the night time. During the winter months that is from November to April there is heavy snow on the roads and the place becomes isolated from the rest of the month, as Rohtang Pass gets closed. Due to western disturbances, the temperature goes down below minus.

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