Picture this: a valley far away from civilization, high up at 12500 feet above sea level, with rugged mountains and ferocious rivers, barren and unparalleled landscapes, with the Himalayan wolf and the leopards roaming around. Sound perfect to you?
Despite the extreme climes, Spiti Valley is home to over 450 varieties of endangered medicinal plants and some rare animals. The people here are courteous, warm and hospitable and everyone is ready to share a legend or two about the village, monasteries and the mountains.
How To Go
The easiest route to get to Spiti Valley is through Manali. Or try the Shimla-Kinnaur route for a more dramatic drive. And for a truly profound experience, stay for at least a week.
Kaza Kaza is the biggest commercial town in Spiti. Explore the Kaza Monastery and the market. There are a few homestays you can stay at, but if that’s not your thing go to Sakya Abode, one of the oldest hotels around. If you don’t want to endure rough living conditions in the remote villages, make Kaza your base camp and take day trips to the villages.
Kibber is the highest motorable village in the world, a hamlet comprising of 80 houses all painted white with red rooftops. It’s a sight to behold. Go here to see the Snow Leopard, Red Fox, Woolly Hare, Blue Sheep and Himalayan Ibex.
You could opt for a shared cab/jeep from Kaza or go the local way on the bus that leaves at 4 in the evening and comes back the next morning. You can also trek to nearby villages like Checham, Gete and Tashigang.
Despite all the adventure, people say stargazing is still the most popular thing to do here. The high altitude, arid climate, and a place completely untainted by pollution offers some of the clearest views of the night sky.
Check with your guide to know where you can stay, because you may not be the one picking the place! The families here take rotations to house the guests so that everyone is benefited equally. Community camaraderie at its best!
Langza At Langza you’ll see unique and rare fossils of ancient marine life. Trilobites of the Palaeozoic era- the earliest legged creatures- relatives of crabs, centipedes and spiders are found here.
There are no monasteries in Langza but there is a towering Buddha statue a little above the village, that they believe protects them from evil.
The 28 Tibetan styled houses of Langza perched on the mountaintop together make for one of the most picturesque villages in Spiti.
Even though it’s secluded from the outside world, you could even get Spanish omlettes and crepes for breakfast, with some of the households picking up the recipe from foreign travelers.
Komic Komic is the highest village in Asia. This village is cut off from Spiti for most part of the year, so the best time to come here is from April–October. If you have the time, talk to the farmers and see how they make their own medicines out of the plants, or learn to make pottery as a fun day activity.
You should also try pedaling through the mountains on rented bicycles; the difficulty level starts from moderate to arduous.
Tabo Tabo houses one of the oldest Buddhist Monasteries founded in 990 AD, the only monastery that has been functioning continuously since then. The charm of it lies in the simple mud structure. Tabo is also known as Ajanta of the Himalayas for its beautiful frescos. It also has the sweetest, juiciest, crunchiest, biggest apples in the world.
On the way to Tabo take a small detour and visit the crumbling Dhankar Monastery (a massive program is underway to protect this fragile monastery) and this is where the Spiti joins the Pin river. Also hike a bit more to the Dhankar Lake for a spellbinding view.
A startling world of its own and with a people so courteous to love, by the end of your journey you’ll wonder how such a miniscule community has so much to offer.
The best time to track the Himalayan Wolf is from April-October and the Snow Leopard from December to March. Make sure you get guides to show you the safest points to spot them from!