Spiti Valley Himachal Pradesh, Spiti Valley Tour, Interesting Facts about Spiti Valley, What Makes Spiti An Amazing Tourist Destination, Culture and Traditions of Spiti Valley, Best Time to visit Spiti Valley, How to reach Spiti Valley, Accommodation at Spiti Valley.
About Spiti Valley
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.
Interesting Facts about Spiti Valley
- The name ‘Spiti’ literally means ‘The Middle Land’. Spiti lies on the Indian border with Tibet.
- In 1993, the Government of India pulled off all restrictions for travel in Spiti, including those targeted at foreigners, thus making the place more accessible for outsiders. Foreigners, however, still need to register with the ITBP prior to their visit.
- In Spiti, you will find the World’s highest village named the Komic village.
Spiti also boasts to have the World’s highest Post Office and the World’s highest Polling Station in the village of Hikkim.
- There is a 500 year old self-mummified body of a Buddhist monk named Sangha Tenzin sheltered even today in Spiti’s Gue village.
- Inspite of having the same District Administration, Spiti is strikingly different from Lahaul in terms of its terrain, history and culture.
- Winters in Spiti are very harsh and to survive them Spitian’s celebrate a lot of festivals, weddings and birthdays in the winter months by stocking up a lot of food and local alcohol.
- Even though the winters are harsh, it is the perfect time for spotting the reclusive Snow leopard and the wild Ibex of Spiti.
- There is no network connectivity in Spiti valley. Only BSNL postpaid cards work here, that too, in specific areas. At times Airtel also works at various places and also some remote areas. A helpful tip: Pre-download the map of Spiti valley in your Google Map App.
- Kaza is the headquarter of Spiti. It is the only place in the entire valley that has a Fuel Station, a Cyber Cafe and a proper mobile network. Kaza and Tabo are the only places where you will find an ATM. It is advisable that you carry enough cash from Manali or Simla and depend on the ATM as the last resort. Also, the Fuel station at Kaza is operational only till 5 pm, so be very cautious about your vehicle’s fuel while you drive around.
- There are two routes to reach Kaza: One is Via Manali (201 km) & the other Via Simla (450 km)
What Makes Spiti An Amazing Tourist Destination
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.
Culture and Traditions of Spiti
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.
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.
Best Time to visit Spiti Valley
May end to the beginning of October is considered the best time to visit Spiti because that’s the time when Shimla – Kinnaur highway is open, which makes the valley accessible to the rest of the world.
After what to see comes information related to accommodation. Spiti Valley is getting popular by each passing year but the fact is that it still remains to be a remote region. Knowing what your choices of accommodation are and where you can break your journey for the night is of utmost importance. It will also play a crucial part in drafting your final itinerary and deciding on number of days for the trip. In the articles below, I have listed some recommended hotels available on the circuit.
How to reach Spiti Valley
By air – Bhuntar Airport or Kullu Airport is the nearest airstrip from Spiti. Cover the remaining 245 km by cab which is easily available from the airport.
By rail – The nearest major railhead to Spiti is Shimla Railway Station. The valley can be reached by a cab from the railway station.
By road – Reaching Spiti by road is mostly preferred by travelers. Government buses, as well as private vehicles, ply from Manali and Shimla to Spiti.
Manali to Spiti is a 4-hour journey. It is preferred because it is less time consuming (195 km), easily accessible, less prone to landslides, and crosses the iconic Kunzum Pass and Rohtang Pass. A bus from Manali to Spiti runs every day from 6 am from mid-June to September. That’s the time the road to Spiti is open for public use.
P.S No permits are needed to enter the valley. Only if you take the Shimla route and enter the valley from Kinnaur side you would be required to take a permit.
Note: Given the number of detours that you would be required to take during the 8 days Spiti Valley trip, it is recommended to travel to Spiti in your own vehicle or book a taxi from Manali.