With pristine lakes and some of the worlds’ highest inhabited villages, Spiti leaves you with picture-postcard memories of barren desert and precariously perched monasteries set against a backdrop of clear blue skies. Sparse population and awesome trekking opportunities offer a feeling of unexplored remoteness in an area yet untouched by tourism. At incredible altitudes with stunning landscape, often compared to Ladakh before tourists took over, Spiti makes a fantastic road-trip destination. Let's un[travel] Spiti and witness some of its remotest villages, valleys, national parks monasteries and a crescent shaped lake.
Manali and around
Reach Manali early in the morning by taking an overnight bus from Delhi. Check-in and take rest. This day is to get used to the altitude and to help you acclimatize. You can go for a walk through Old Manali, do some shopping, withdraw money if you need to, eat a good meal and get ready for the adventure ahead. Night’s stay is in Manali
Manali – Rohtang Pass – Batal - Kunzum Pass – Lohsar – Kaza
From the cream of Manali to the spectacular highs that only Kaza can afford – head over to Spiti. Frequent stops for lunch and refreshments might take longer with panoramic views of majestic mountains. Un[travel]ing through Spiti is the closest you could get to Shangri-La, albeit on some inspiring tarmac. While you’re certainly not going to be allowed forty winks on the Dalai Lama’s bed, used on his visits here, Spiti offers much more than monasteries and pristine glaciers. Impressive decorations signal the onset of festivals here in Spiti, offering an easy excuse for much song and revelry throughout the year. If you’re lucky enough to be in Spiti at the end of September, check out the ‘Chakhar Mela’ (held every three years) that ends with the Chham dance (mask) by the Lamas. With pristine lakes and some of the worlds’ highest inhabited villages, Spiti leaves you with picture-postcard memories of barren desert and precariously perched monasteries set against a backdrop of clear blue skies. Sparse population and awesome trekking opportunities offer a feeling of unexplored remoteness in an area yet untouched by tourism. At incredible altitudes with stunning landscape, often compared to Ladakh before tourists took over, Spiti makes a fantastic road-trip destination with the added bonus of spotting that ever-elusive Snow Leopard.
Make sure you hit sack early in Kaza, refreshed and well rested for another day.
Kaza-Kye and Kibber and Kaza
En route to Kibber village from Kaza post breakfast, fascinatingly perched on a rugged ridge overlooking the Spitiriver,Kye monastery is Spiti Valley’s biggest monastery. Easily the most photographed, it is home to over 300 lamas. Dating back to nearly 1000 AD (second only to Tabo Monastery in age), butter lamps lit every evening add to the aura of peace and tranquillity as you walk past ancient murals and paintings. You could get a glimpse of the bed the Dalai Lama used to use on his visits here (he now stays in the new prayer hall in the monastery). Photography is allowed only on the roof of the monastery, so get a couple of good pictures before you step in.
Move on until quaint white houses with bright red rooftops start appearing in the horizon, marking your welcome to Kibber village. At over 4200 metres above msl, Kibber is one of Spiti’s highest inhabited villages with inhabitants all the year around. Expect a fair share of homestays in Kibber where tourism does help the local community along with agriculture in some of Spiti’s most fertile lands. Delve deeper into the rich culture and history of people in this charming village as you sit down for some hot lunch with them.
Take a walk about in lush green environs a world away from everyday life before you head back to Kaza.
Spend the night in Kaza.
Kaza – Dhankar – Dhankar Lake – Tabo
Post breakfast, begin your journey to the little town of Tabo. Gently fluttering prayer flags against a backdrop of green farmland (in summer), surrounded by barren mountains and clear blue skies, mark the entrance to Tabo. Over a 1000 years old, Tabo Monastery is now a UNESCO Heritage site and one of the finest marvels of Indo-Tibetian art. Temple complexes of sturdy mud walls mark the uniqueness of Tabo Monastery complete with impressive murals inside. Take a short hike to Tabo caves to feel the general aura of peace that surrounds these meditation grounds as well.
Stop at Dhankar on your way back. Precariously perched on a rugged cliff, Dhankar seems almost fragile from a distance. Getting closer, however, gives you a fair idea of why so much effort must have been spent building this over a thousand years ago. Spectacular views of the Spiti-Pin river confluence and the valley below offer meditation spots like none other here in this mud-walled monastery. Take a quick look at the little museum in the Gompa here before you spend some time in conversation with the lamas for more history and lore of the Dhankar Monastery. Most of these monasteries prohibit photography inside, so you might want to capture some of those fascinating scenes before you spend the night in your hotel in Tabo.
Tabo – Sangam – Mudh - Langza
Set off after breakfast through barren mountains set against bright blue skies with patches of lovely green farmland in summer. Your first stop, at some of the highest inhabited villages in the world, is Langza. Renowned for its unbeatable location, Langza offers some of Spiti’s finest views with unclaimed fossils lying around its outskirts. Spectacular views of the ChauChau Kang Nilda peak at 4400 metres above mean sea level with isolated slopes make Langza the destination of choice. Think twice if you want to displace those ancient fossils if you do find one though.
Explore Spiti’s largest green area, the Pin Valley, surrounded by barren landscape and towering unexplored mountains. After a hearty breakfast, drive through narrow rocky tarmac to nature’s impressive contrasts of lush green stures set against snow-capped mountains and clear blue skies. Tall trees, waterfalls and quaint little villages pa dot the scenery here with the meandering Pin river providing still-life scenes for postcards. With fascinating Tibetan culture visible throughout the valley, this area is renowned as home to the last surviving Buchen Lamas from Buddhism’s oldest Nyingmapa Sect.
Spend some time with the locals here and learn more about their folklore and culture as well. Treat your taste buds to some authentic hot lunch here before you head back to Langza.
Langza - Komic – Chandrataal
After breakfast, head to Komic - Appearing, seemingly out of nowhere, Komic is the Himalaya’s highest inhabited village. With a little over a dozen households, expect to be greeted with cups of hot tea from the lovely families who live here. Sitting pretty at 4587 metres above mean sea level, Komic offers stunning vistas from its ancient monastery as well.
A little over 3 hours, on some tricky rocky roads, would take you to Kunzum Pass. Drive down from the towering Pass to the surreal Chandrataal Lake. Spend some time by the ‘moon lake’, as its popularly known, and watch it turn different shades of turquoise blue as the morning progresses. Take a walk around the periphery for some fascinating photograph opportunities and memories for a lifetime. Apparently the site where Yudishtra (eldest Pandava from the Mahabharata) was taken to heaven, Chandrataal is surrounded by legends and folklore about its origins. Go around to and from the mesmerising lake, while interacting with the locals who will tell you some fascinating stories about the lake.
Take a stroll around in the evening watching the evening get older with shades of red and yellow and orange lighting up the sky. Spend your night in Chandrataal Camps.
Chandrataal to Manali
This is the last day of your trip in the secluded beauty of Spiti before you see civilization again. Gaze at the mountains as we approach the hustle and bustle of Rohtang Pass and Manali. You can spend some time at Rohtang if your schedule permits. Stay in Manali.
Departure from Manali
Drive back to Manali, after lunch, for your last day up in the mountains. Drop in at Bob Dylan’s café in the heart of Manali for some lip-smacking cookies and healthy dose of Dylan’s music or visit Old Manali for some old-world charm as you escape the bustling crowd of Mall Road.
Head back home with heavier luggage perhaps, but memories for a lifetime.