Spiti Valley is a cold desert mountain valley located high in the Himalayan mountains in the north-eastern part of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The name “Spiti” means “The Middle Land”, i.e. the land between Tibet and India.
The sub-divisional headquarters or capital is Kaza, which is situated along the Spiti River at an elevation of about 12,500 feet above sea level. Lahaul & Spiti Valley often termed together but Lahaul valley is altogether a different region with a different view than what Spiti valley has to offer, and most people get confused between them.
The Rohtang Pass separates the Lahaul valley from the Kullu valley and the Kunzum Pass separates the Lahaul Valley from Spiti Valley. And by jurisdiction wise, beyond Chhatru the Lahaul administration starts. Both are tribal circuits but Lahaul Valley can be distinguished by names like Keylong, Udaipur, Jispa, Baralacha La Pass, Surajtal Lake, Darcha, etc. Majority of these places falls on Manali – Leh Highway and hence, anyone who has made a trip to Manali – Leh Highway would have experienced them.
The scenic beauty perspective is also different between Lahaul and Spiti where Lahaul Valley is more green and living while Spiti Valley is more barren and a cold desert.
Why one should visit Spiti Valley
Surrounded by mountains and glaciers, some highest villages in the world perched on mountain crests, quaint old monasteries, crystal clear rivers and streams, prayer flags fluttering in the wind and monks in their robes evoke strong comparisons with Tibet and leaves tourists to this remote region spellbound.
It is not just the culture and natural beauty that Spiti offers. Trekking, jeep safaris, bike trips are some of the activities that you can do here. Trekkers flock to Spiti attracted by its scenic mountains, enchanting landscapes, glaciers and pristine environment. Pin-Parvati, Parang-La and Pin-Bhaba are some of the popular trails. Even if you are not interested, a trip to villages situated around Spiti can be an interesting experience.
Kunzum Pass, the gateway to Spiti, leads to the Bara-Sigri glacier, the second longest glacier in the world. Monasteries and gompas represent the ancient culture and tradition of Spiti.
Key monastery located at an altitude of 13668 ft above sea level is close to the Spiti River and is the biggest monastery of Spiti Valley and a religious training center for Lamas.
Tabo Monastery, one of the oldest Buddhism centers in western Himalaya, is located here. Murals of Tabo monasteries are quite similar to Ajanta paintings.
Best time to visit Spiti Valley?
So the road connecting these divisions from the north is cut off frequently in winter due to heavy snow for up to 5-6 months of the year. This means you cannot access this valley from Manali or Keylong due to the heavy snow at the highest Kunzum Pass which is elevated at 15,059 ft.
Whereas Spiti valley is accessible throughout the year from the south that is via Kinnaur. Even this route may also periodically get closed for a brief period during the winter storms, but road access is usually restored within a few days after storms end. Therefore the summer months from late May to late September are therefore the best time to visit Spiti valley. As the weather warms up, the snow slowly melts and gets cleared away to open up road travel to the valley.
Best routes to Spiti Valley?
There are two routes to enter Spiti Valley one from Manali – Rohtang Pass – Kunzum Pass – Losar and finally Kaza. And the other from Shimla – Narkanda – Kinnaur Valley – Tabo – and finally to Kaza. So, you can see that one can enter from one side (say Shimla) and exit back to Delhi from another side (Manali) making it the complete circuit. I suggest you guys start it from Shimla and exit through Manali, due to two basic advantages. Firstly, Spiti Valley is a cold desert situated in the Trans Himalayan region at an altitude of 11000+ Feet mostly and hence, your body will require a certain amount of acclimatization before you enter the Spiti Valley.
So Going via Shimla side will help you gradually increase the altitude and your body gets acclimatized properly, hence fewer chances of getting hit with Acute Mountain Sickness.
If you start from Manali side then you’ll reach High Altitude terrain pretty quickly which increases the chances of Mountain Sickness and that can spoil the trip. Secondly, you get a chance to traverse the Hindustan – Tibet Highway which is one of the most adventurous and as per some the most treacherous roads in the world.
Riding or Driving on Hindustan Tibet Road is a journey in itself even if you do not visit any places in Spiti Valley. So, with these two reasons in mind let’s start from Shimla side and exit via Manali side.
Point of interests/ Places of attraction in Spiti Valley
We will highlight the point of interests that fall in this circuit starting from Shimla to Kaza and then back to Manali. So when you’re starting your journey from Delhi or Chandigarh, the very first town you enter is Solan, elevated at 1600m is a hill town.
If you have carried some extra days or you couldn’t make it up to Shimla or Chail on the first day of your journey. You can plan a stay in Solan.
A distance of 46 km from Solan you’ll reach Shimla the capital and the largest city in Himachal Pradesh elevated at 2276m. Sightseeing includes the mall road, the ridge, Lakkar Bazaar, Jakhoo Temple.
If you are the person who likes tranquil and want to avoid crowd you can skip Shimla and instead visit Chail which is another hill station elevated at 2250m and is 40 km from Solan. Which is far more serene compared to Shimla. So you can either take the Shimla route or the Chail route. Both these routes cover almost the same distance.
the next point in your journey will be Kufri, a small hill station at an elevation of 2630m and located 20km from Shimla and 31 km from Chail. The attraction here includes the Himalayan national park. Kufri also offers various fun activities at Kufri Fun World, horse ride to the Mahasu Peak and skiing during winters.
The next point in your journey is Narkanda, at an elevation of 2760m and located 47km from Kufri. Hatu peak and Taunu Jubbar lake are the points of attraction here. One can also do skiing during the season.
Sarahan is a small village in Kinnaur Valley. It is the site of the Bhimakali Temple, originally known as Bhimadevi Temple. Sarahan pheasantry and Dharangati wildlife sanctuary are the places to visit in Sarahan. You need to divert from the main NH5 at a place called Jalori and ascend for about 12 km to reach Sarahan.
Sangla Valley (2696m) (95km 3hr from Rampur)
Sangla is a town in the Baspa Valley, also referred to as the Sangla valley, in the Kinnaur District close to the Tibetan border The valley is surrounded by forested slopes and offers views of the high mountains Chitkul. It is the last inhabited village near the Indo-China border. 24 km from Sangla the drive to this village is an absolute treat for nature lovers, especially the last 10 km after crossing the nomadic village of Rakcham which marks the halfway point between Sangla and Chitkul. I am not sure about the altitude of this village as I found it as 4550m in Wikipedia which is no way it could be real and many websites claim it as 3450m. I am a bit skeptical about this figure as well.
Kalpa is a small town in the Sutlej river valley, above Recong Peo in the Kinnaur district. It is located at the base of the Kinnaur Kailash snow-capped ranges. Kalpa is one of the biggest and beautiful villages of Kinnaur district. You need to divert from the main NH5 and ascend to about 5 km to reach Kalpa.
Nako is a village located near the Indo-China border in the Trans-Himalayan region of Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh. Nako Lake is a prominent feature here, where it borders the village. Nako Monastery, dated to 1025 AD, is located in this village with several other Buddhist Chortens.
Gue Village(48km (1 hr 15m fro Nako) 3200m
This village is famous for a 500-year-old mummy of a Buddhist monk. The remains of this 15th-century Buddhist monk named Sangha Tenzin was discovered in 1975 when the stupa that was housing him collapsed during an earthquake. To reach here one need to divert from the main highway after crossing Sumdo. A 10 km narrow road will take you to this village.
A 35 km ride from Gue, you reach Tabo. Tabo is a small town in the Lahaul and Spiti district on the banks of the Spiti River. Situated at an altitude of 3280m Tabo is famous for Tabo monastery. It was founded in 996 AD in the Tibetan year of the Fire Ape. Tabo is noted for being the oldest continuously operating Buddhist enclave in both India and the Himalayas.
Dhankar Monastery (Altitude: 3894m)
Dhankar village elevated at an altitude of 3,894 meters (12,774 feet), which is 31 km from Tabo. The Dhankar monastery is built on a 1000-feet (300-meter) high spur overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers – one of the world’s most spectacular settings for a gompa. Dhang or dang means cliff and Kar or Khar mean fort. Hence Dhangkar means fort on a cliff. The Dhankar Lake which is situated above the village of Dhankar at an altitude of 4136 meters (13570 feet) in the middle of the hills. A 1hr steep hike is required to reach the lake from the village.
Pin valley is a beautiful valley in Lahaul & Spiti situated along the Pin River. Though within Spiti, the ecosystem of Pin Valley is completely different than that of Spiti and its pristine beauty is quite fascinating. There are approximately 17 villages in Pin Valley. And the last village in this valley is the Mud village elevated at an altitude of 3770m and is 33 km away from the main highway. This village is the trailhead for the spectacular Pin–Parvati trek, and also for the Pin Bhaba pass trek. Mud is a fine spot to ramble around for a couple of days, even if you’re not trekking. A short distance from here, you enter the 675-sq-km Pin Valley National Park, reputed as the ‘land of ibex and snow leopards’.
Kaza (3800 m)
Kaza is the sub-divisional headquarters of the remote Spiti Valley in the Lahaul and Spiti district which is the largest township and the commercial center of the valley. Kaza is known for its colorful festivals and the ancient Sakya Tangyud Monastery. It is also popular with tourists and adventure seekers during summer months because of its central location and connections to rest of the valley and outside. This central location also makes Kaza an ideal base camp for trekking, mountaineering and tours directed to other parts of the valley. You can find some offbeat and high altitude villages around Kaza. The village named Langza- Komic-Hikkim forms one circuit and can be covered in one day. And the Ki-Kibber-Chicham-Gete-Tashigang can be covered in another day. I will suggest visiting Langza Komic and Hikkim first, as the Ki-Kibber-Chicham-Gete-Tashigang falls on the Chandratal route so you can plan to visit this place while going to Chandratal.
Langza is known for the presence of marine fossils and the breathtaking view of 6300m high Chau Chau Kang Nelda peak sitting on top of the village. At first glance of the village, one will instantly notice a huge Buddha statue which is believed to be around 1000 years old. The village is guarded by this statue overlooking the valley, an old monastery, and few mud houses, which are worth visiting. The monastery behind the statue is said to be over 500 years old. Hikkim (Altitude:4400 m) Another village in Lahaul Spiti district. This location is credited as World’s highest polling station. It is recorded in the Limca Book of Records and also credited to have the World’s highest post office. The Pin code is 172114.
Komic is another village which is recorded as the highest village connected with a motorable road. The Komic Gompa or Tangyud Monastery, yet another attraction is considered to be over 500 years old and one of the highest altitude gompas in India.
Ki Monastery (4166m)
A Tibetan Buddhist monastery located on top of a hill at an altitude of 4,166 meters above sea level, close to the Spiti River, in the Spiti Valley. It is the biggest monastery of Spiti Valley and a religious training center for Lamas. From Ki Plan for Gette and then Tashigang and after returning from there you’ll cross Kibber and Chicham while continuing to Chandratal. Gette is another highest village at an altitude of 4270m 10 km from Kibber and riding to further 5 km you’ll reach Tashgang. While traveling to these villages you can spot Himalayan ibex. The route to Gette and Tashigang is a complete dirt road with loose gravel.
Kibber is another high altitude village in Spiti Valley elevated at 4270 meters. It contains a monastery and the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary. Chicham You can Spot Chicham village nestled on a huge mountain peak. The road from Kibber to Chicham is connected using a suspended bridge over a gorge, which is said to be Asia’s highest bridge at an altitude of 4037m (13,244ft) and connects the Kibber village to the Chicham Village. The bridge is named after the village as Chicham Bridge.
Kunzum Pass (4590m)
Kunzum Pass or Kunzum La (el. 4,590 m or 15,060 ft) is a high mountain pass on the eastern Kunzum Range of the Himalayas. It connects the Kullu District and Lahaul District with the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh. The Kunzum Pass is 19 km from Losar and 76km from Kaza.
Chandratal Lake: 4300m
Chandra Tal is a lake situated in the Spiti part of the Lahaul and Spiti district. Chandratal meaning the Lake of the moon and the name of the lake originates from its crescent shape It is situated at an altitude of about 4,300 meters (14,100 ft). The Jeepable distance from Kunzum Pass to Chandratal Lake is 19 km. And further two km to trek. The road to Chandratal is narrow and rough.
Rohtang Pass: (3978 m)
Rohtang Pass is a high mountain pass on the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas around 51 km from Manali. It connects the Kullu Valley with the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys of Himachal Pradesh. This pass is elevated at an altitude of 3978m.
Solang Valley: (2560m)
Located at a distance of 13 km from Manali, Solang Valley lies between Solang village and Beas Kund. It offers a beautiful view of glaciers and snow capped mountains. Since the valley has fine ski slopes, it is a perfect place for skiing. During winters, the valley becomes a skiing paradise with children of all ages slipping and sliding over the fresh white snow.
Manali is a resort town nestled in the mountains near the northern end of the Kullu Valley, at an altitude of 2,050 m. It is a popular tourist destination and serves as the gateway to Lahaul and Spiti district as well as Leh.
How many days are required for a Spiti valley trip?
The Spiti valley trip can be done in 7 days, but for that, you have to skip Kinnaur valley, Sangla valley and Pin Valley. If you like to cover all the above-mentioned valleys and the offbeat locations around the valley then a minimum of 10 days is required. Since there’s a lot more these valleys will offer, it’s a worth to visit and one should not skip these places. And always keep 1 or 2 days as a buffer in case of road closure due to landslides or snowfall or any breakdown of your vehicle.
Places for stay & availability of accommodation in Spiti Valley
Mode of transportation For a Spiti valley
Budget/Travel expense in Spiti Valley
Spiti valley is a place where you can get a variety of stay options depending on the choice, comfort, and preference one is looking for. The price range may vary depending on the season and popularity.
The variety of stay options may range from 200 or 500 for a stay at some Dhaba tent or shack 400 to 900 for a stay at low range guest house or a homestay. 900 to 2000 for a medium range guest house or hotel. 4000 and above for hotels that offer much more comfort, convenience, food etc. Similar will be the case for food expense. And it totally depends on what you want to eat and where you want to eat. If you dine at a dhabha tent then the cost of the meal would come out to be around Rs 100 – 150 only per person and the same meal if you take at your hotel or any restaurant then you might pay Rs 250– Rs 500 per person or maybe more. Vegetarian or Non-Vegetarian also matters with respect to food pricing. Apart from the above expenses, one should also consider miscellaneous expenses like toll, parking, entry fee etc.
If you got this article helpful, please share with your friends who are planning for a Spiti Valley trip. Thank you.
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