June 2008
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Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh

Best time to visit: August To October
Clothing : Heavy woolens both in summer and winter
Rainfall: almost zero.

Spiti is part of the Lahaul & Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh (it is a border district adjoining China’s Tibet province). Spiti also means “Middle Country”. It lies between Tibet, Ladakh, Kinnaur, Lahaul & Kulu. It is called “Little Tibet” because it has almost the same terrain, vegetation & climate. Spiti is the sub division of Lahaul & Spiti district with its headquarters at Kaza. In 1941, Spiti,with Lahaul, was constituted into a separate sub-tehsil of Kullu sub-division which had its headquarters at Keylong. Later on, after the formation of Lahaul & Spiti into a district, in 1960, Spiti was formed into a sub-division with its headquarter at Kaza. Originally known as “Piti” before the Tibetan dialect influenced the local language, Spiti is a land of stunning beauty for some people.
With a population of around ten thousand people, the valley is immersed in Buddhist traditions and the influence of neighbouring Tibet is quite visible. Thick ice and heavy snow fall on Rohtang La and Kunzum La Passes render the Spiti Valley inaccessible by the northern route via Manali or Keylong for seven to eight months of the year. Access is still possible during winter by the southern route, via Shimla and the Sutlej Valley in Kinnaur district. Traveling through Spiti is not easy and should not be attempted quickly. One must acclimatize to the high elevations little by little. Part of the road passes within 12 kilometres of the border with Tibet / China. You need a special pass to go through the checkpoints on this part of the road. During season times, the vegetation makes the valleys more beautiful. This district is very rich in valuable medicinal plants and rare aromatic plants.

Map of the Valley

View Larger Map

Places to see in the Spiti Valley:
1. The high altitude village of Kibber (4205m, 13795 feet) that you can see above. According to the locals, it’s the world’s highest village with a decent road and electricity. It is located at an altitude of 4205 m.
2. Many gompas – these are typically Buddhist monasteries located on beautiful locations, many times on cliffs with some great values.
a) Ki – This has a great view and is located pretty close to Kaza. It is on a hillock.
b) Dhankar Gompa – An even greater view from this place. Refer this website (link). It stands perched at a height of 12,774 feet and falls between the towns of Kaza and Tabo. The monastery houses a statue of “Vairochana” which shows 4 complete figures of Buddha seated back to back.
c) Tabo gompa – Has some great Buddhist art in terms of murals and sculptures (dating all the way back to the 10th century)
d) THANG YUG GOMPA – It is located 13kms. above kaza serving western part of central Spiti. Situated in a secluded place in the narrow gauge of Kaza Nallah, it generally has a Lama from Tibet. Above this there is a long plateau which leads to Shilla peak.
3. Kunzum Pass: Located at an altitude of 4590 m, extends from Spiti to Lahaul. Apart from the magnificent view of the surrounding areas, you can also see a temple at the top of the pass which is dedicated to Goddess Durga. On your way to this pass, also enjoy the panoramic view of Bara-Sigri glacier (second longest glacier in the world), the view is enthrilling and inspiring.
4. Losar: Located at the meeting point of two streams, Losar and Peeno, this village provides some fantastic views. Moreover, it also happens to be the first big village in the Spiti valley. Other reason for visiting this valley is that it offers an opportunity of yak and horse riding.
5. The Giant Statue of Meditating Buddha in the Key Monastery in Lahaul & Spiti is a must see.
6. Lingti Valley: This is the largest and the longest side valley of Spiti. It runs north-east from Lingti Village (3460m) for about 60 km to its head. Lingti valley is a living geological museum. Its geological history dates back 250 millions years and its shales and fossils are well known all over the world. Gya peak (6794m) which towers above the northern head of the valley, is the highest peak in Himachal Pradesh.

Things to do in Spiti:
Trekking: Refer this article (link)
Travel (refer this article)
Camping and Angling in River Bhaga

Places to stay in Spiti:
1. Kaza has some good accommodation (Hotel Snow View, Hotel Moonlight, Hotel Jambala)
2. Losar – Sam Song Guesthouse
3. Tabo – Tashi guesthouse

How to get there:

– From Manali via Rohtang Pass to Kaza, the hqtr. of Spiti. Manali is connected by Air, Rail and Road. From Manali, there is a regular bus from July to October.
– From Shimla via Kinnaur. Shimla is connected by Air, Rail & Road. From here by buses to Kaza from May to October.

Manali is connected by Air, similarly Shimla is connected by air to most of the country.

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