Wind-carved mountains, whitewashed settlements, patches of green on an arid terrain and confounding moonscapes to offer, it is difficult to disagree with Kipling. To have our treks either start (Kanamo Peak) or end (Hampta Pass, Pin Bhaba Pass) in these surreal landscapes of Spiti Valley is just a cherry on top of the trek experience.
The moment you hit Kunzum La pass (known as the Gateway to Spiti), with fluttering of prayer flags in the high winds to greet you, you know you have entered a completely different world. You can see Bara Shigri– the second longest glacier in Himalayas and Chandra Bhaga mountain from the Pass. As you descend from the Pass, the Himalayas show you a completely different face. The untouched culture is a product of this region’s seclusion, cut off by snow at least 7 months of the year.
We have listed out our favourite experiences in the Spiti Valley region of Himachal Pradesh here:
Crystal clear water at Chandratal. Picture by Rekha
Distance from Manali: 128 km
The Pangong Tso of Spiti! This stunning crescent lake is included in our Hampta Pass itinerary and is a must-do! Not only that, if you are trekking anywhere near Manali, perhaps the Bhrigu Lake or Pin Bhaba trek, you can easily add another day to your itinerary and visit this gorgeous lake.
Spiti Valley is a world apart from anything you have seen. The drive to Kaza feels like you are going through the Grand Canyon. PC: Sachin Jha.
Distance from Manali: 200 km
This is where our Pin Parvati and Kanamo trekkers go to on their Day 1. Kaza is the capital and the largest settlement of Spiti region, sitting on the floodplain of Spiti river. This is also your last place with an ATM and petrol bunk. Being the largest settlement in Spiti Valley, it is well-equipped to meet needs of travellers. If you are trekking in months of July/August, you may able to catch the Ladarcha Fair. Originally it was a conference of traders from Kullu, Ladakh, Lahaul, Kinnaur to barter goods in Kibber Maidan, until the trade routes with Tibet closed. Now, the Fair is held in Kaza and is a shopping paradise.
Key Monastery, Spiti. Picture by Sudheer Hegde
Distance from Kaza: 15 km
Key is the largest monastery in the Spiti Valley region and possibly one of the oldest in the region. Perched on a hilltop, boxes of buildings stacked on top of each other, with Spiti river breaking the desert valley, this monastery is quite a sight! If you are lucky, you will get a tour from a friendly monk (and a helping of herbal tea!) and even get to go through old manuscripts. Our Kanamo trekkers are lucky this monastery is part of the itinerary, and they get to stay here overnight!
Look up monastery festivals before you go, you might be able to witness the Cham Dance!
Look at the way these villages are! Built on slopes of the mountain so they don’t lose an inch of farming land in this arid region. Seeing the harsh conditions people live in here, it is amazing how people here are perennially cheerful and unaffected. PC: Sachin Jha
Distance from Kaza: 19 km
Here’s where our Kanamo Peak trek starts. Kibber, dubiously claimed as the “highest village in the world” before Komic stole its glory, is a beautiful village with whitewashed houses made of mud and stone. The farmlands of peas and barley add striking colour to the desert landscape. The area is under Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary where you can spot elusive snow leopards (these animals only come down from the mountains in winter), Himalayan wolf, ibex, blue sheep and red fox.
The bridge connecting Kibber to Chicham. Picture by Satyen Dasgupta
A small village on the other side of the river from Kibber. Earlier, the means of commute between Kibber and Chicham village was trolley ride between the gorges. The trolley will have you looking at almost a 150 metre drop, with sparkling blue river snaking its way below!
Thankfully, there’s now a full-fledged bridge across the river to reach Chicham!
The postcards from here are a thing to treasure! Picture by Satyen Dasgupta
Distance from Kaza: 15 km
Hikkim village, sitting in a bowl in a mountain, has the distinction of having the world’s highest post office and also be named as world’s highest polling station. It is not everyday you get to send postcards from the highest post office in the world!
The Golden Buddha at Langza, deemed to be a 1000 years old. Picture by Satyen Dasgupta
Distance from Kaza: 14 km
Behind Hikkim is Langza- a geologist’s paradise! Millions of years ago, Spiti was under Tethys sea. There are innumerable fossils of sea creatures and plants to be found under rocks, or in the higher reaches of the mountains. With grand views of Chau Chau Kang Nilda peak, the village is one of the most beautiful villages in Spiti. Langza also has a large, golden Buddha statue which is said to be over a 1,000 years old.
Komic, a small village around 18 km from Kaza. Picture by Satyen Dasgupta
Distance from Kaza: 18 km
Komic is a small village that houses around 10-15 families. It also has a monastery that houses around 50 lamas. It is known to be one of the highest motorable villages in the world.
Right above the monastery is this hidden gem of a lake. PC: Sabyasachi Chatterjee
Distance from Kaza: 34 kms
Dhankar (“Fort on Cliff”) used to be capital of Spiti during the 17th century- now it is just a tiny village. The buildings in the village is built in a way that it almost seems share their back wall with mountain. The Dhankar Monastery is listed as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. It is not hard to see why. The monastery, wedged between eroded rock pinnacles, overlooking the confluence of Spiti and Pin river, is at a site vulnerable to soil and wind erosion. The setting of the monastery, however, is incredibly dramatic! You can even hike up to Dhankar Lake above the monastery.
South of Dhankar Gompa, starts Pin Valley National Park, the only cold desert National Park in Himachal- where Pin Parvati begins and Pin Bhaba ends.
Once you have completed Rupin Pass, if you wish to visit Spiti- you can take the Hindustan Tibet road.This road, bored through a cliff and full of hairpin turns- though scenic- is also one of the most treacherous highways in the world. You start following the Spiti river a little before Sumdo and Tabo falls right after.
Distance from Sangla: 160 kms
Gue is a diversion between Sumdo and Tabo. Gue, a village straddling a trade route between India and Tibet , houses a 500 year old, remarkably well-preserved mummy in a glass chamber. The monk- said to be Sangha Tenzin underwent natural mummification and was found by villagers in 1975 when earthquake struck the region. The village is controlled by ITBP because of its proximity to Indo-China border.
Distance from Kaza: 48 kms
This is a world heritage site and Dalai Lama’s favourite place! Tabo monastery is known as the “Ajanta of Himalayas” because of its fresco and stucco paintings. It is one of the few monasteries which is integrated in the valley with the village as opposed to being perched on a hill overlooking the village. The mountains also have meditation caves for lamas.
Tabo and Gue come right after you enter Spiti from Hindustan-Tibet Road that goes through Kinnaur.
Have we missed any mention worthy regions in the Spiti Valley? Write to us in comments and we’ll add them in this article and you’ll be given due credit!
What you should do now
1. If you’d like to go on a trek in Spiti or Lahaul, check out the Pin Bhaba, Kanamo Peak or Hampta Pass treks.
2. If you ended up here by chance and were actually looking for treks to do: Then head over to our upcoming treks page. You’ll find all our Himalayan treks there.
3. If you want to work with us: Head over to our careers page. We have lots of positions open. We also have lots of applications coming in. So the sooner you apply, the better.