Spiti Valley is a barren, rugged cold desert in the high-altitude of Himachal Pradesh. Colloquially the word “Spiti” is spelt as Piti which roughly means “The middle land”, i.e. the land between Tibet and India.
With deep ravines, stunning gorges and rugged sprawling cold desert it fascinates millions of adventurers and tourists alike with it’s sheer beauty. Offering a kaleidoscope of vibrant culture, rich history, marvelous lakes and a postcard perfect landscape of snow-laden mountains plush forests, it is exactly the reason why Spiti Valley is very aptly tagged as ‘The’ Little Tibet of India.
Be it a adventure tour on a Bikes, trekking through some of the most remotest deep mountain valleys or for a spiritual tour, this beautiful place is a hidden treasure trove with many hidden surprises for all type of tourists.
Before you do your maths for your upcoming tour to Spiti Valley do read the below list of top destinations to visit in this fabulous year of 2020.
1) Kye Monastery
If you are big fan of ‘The Lord Of the Rings’ movies you may relate the grandeur of ‘Key Monastery’ to Minas Tirith, the heavily fortified capital kingdom of Gondor. Keeping aside the movie talks, Kye monastery is an 11th century Monastery at a height of about 13,500 ft. True to its fabled splendour its is no less than the Minas Tirith.
Originally when built the monastery is believed to be on lower altitude. But due to the regular onslaught of the Mongol barbarians the original complex was repeatedly destroyed. The today’s seen structures are built build upon what had been on the previous structure’s foundation. Which will answer you why there were many erratic structural patchwork of old rooms, tight alleys along the hallways, and hidden courtyards as can be seen today. As seen from a distance on the approaching road the Kye Gompa looks more like a collection of irregular heap of low lying houses amids a maze of dark corridors on a huge volcanic shaped monolithic hill.
There is very less parking space available. And once inside the Kye Gompa, you will encounter a recently renovated fleets of tiled staircase leading to the entrance of the Gompa. Inside is a new prayer complex with its enormous beauty now houses 250 monks. Right beside this new prayer hall, amids the old wooden columns a small fleets of stone steps will lead you inside a heavily carved hallways of the old complex. The old complex has prayer chambers that exhibits old Thangkas and murals, few poorly lit meditation rooms and a library that has ancient manuscripts of sacred Tangyur texts.
Around the month of June and July, the Kye monastery celebrates the annual festival, in which the Chaam dancers are followed by a procession by lamas who reaches the ritual ground below the monastery to perform dance. A large butter sculpture of a demon is set on fire and the devotees lays themselves down on the route, so that the lamas can walk over them as a part of a ritual.
How to Reach Kye Monastry from Kaza
The distance of Kye Monasatery is just 15kms from the nearest town of Kaza. If you feel you can easily do a small hike to reach the Key monastery from the Kaza town. Since there are no shade and sun shines brighter in this part of the country, before you begin your Hike ,do carry ample water, a full hat and lots of suncreen lotion . Otherwise hire a private vehicle that will cost Rs 800 from Kaza for a return trip.
Where to Stay In Kye Monastery
There are few home stay available in and around Kye Monastery, which charges as low as Rs 300-500 per night. The food is very basic ranging from maggie noodles, Thupkas to breads. Rather than lodging at Key, I would suggest my readers to go for a day trip to Kye Monastery from the Kaza town itself and then returning back to the Kaza town. Kaza town surely provides a lot many options for comfortable lodging and variety of fooding options.
What to do in Kye Monastry:
-Attend annual Key Monastery Festival (usually during last week of September)
-Attend evening prayer in the Monastery.
-Photography in and around the Monastery.
-interact with the residential monks if they agree.
-Visit the green peas farms around the Monastery.
2) Chandra Taal Lake :
Chandra Taal Lake, famously known otherwise as the ‘Lake of Moon’ is a glacier feed turquoise blue colored high altitude lake. At a height of 14000 fts, this crescent shaped lake is a great charm that cannot be delineated with words. An array of snow burnt pastel mountain ranges in its background, reflecting themselves in this crystal blue lake makes the whole view an awe inspiring surreal experience.
A trip to Chandratal would mean a mix of raw adventure and of desolate nature. The roads leading to the lake are considered to be amongst the most treacherous road of the region due to the many water streams on way and also due to it’s high altitude, rugged, rusty and non existent roads that challenges even the toughest driving skills. It’s surely test and drag your driving skills and your vehicle performance to it’s extreme.No doubt why many seasoned adventurers finds it as a preferred place to be. But believe me, once you reach Chandratal Lake, the first sight of it will definitely takes away all the pain of the arduous journey and it’s very much worth it.
How to Reach Chandrataal Lake
To reach the lake there are two routes . first and the shortest route is via Manali city. It is from Manali from where you will need to hire a private vehicle, cross over the 3978m high altitude Rohtang pass and then reach Baltal to get on the roads leading to the lake. No doubt this route is the shortest but this is not recommended where you will need to cross a risky high altitude Rohtang mountain pass. And there after carry on the road less roads which will be just a bone cracking experience.
And secondly there is a longer route (500kms) to reach Chandrataal Lake in the Spiti Valley via Shimla with stoppages at Kinnaur, Tabo and then Kaza. It will take you through the vivid cultural places of the Spiti valley and the roads are quite comfortable helping you to better acclimatise, but days consuming.
From the Kaza side, you will need to first cross the Kunzum Passat 4590m height. Then watchout for a old painted board on your right, showing you the way to Chandra Taal lake. Just roll on your vehicle till you reach the last point of vehicle entry zone. There you can see many fancy named pitched tent camps. These tents gets mostly booked months before, so you will have to enquire before hand of you reaching there.
The Chandrataal lake is at a distance of some 3 kms from these camps. The entry to the lake are restricted and to reach it you will again need to reach the lake’s parking lot from where a short 2km hike will bring you to the lake’s view point. It’s just a short 200m downhill walk from this lake view point.
Where to Stay in Chandrataal Lake
On our last trip to Chandrataal Lake we stayed with Tenzins camps. The tents which we booked were a mix of large tents. The cost of the tents were in the range of Rs 1500 per night- Rs 2500 and these can accomodate at most a group of 4 in one tent . There are also few luxurious single beded twin sharing swiss tents having attached loo, that could cost Rs 5000 per night, including food. Bon fire is banned in the campsite so do not expect that to happen.
What to do in Chandra taal Lake: Hike till the Chandrataal Lake, Star gazing in the night, night photography of the Milky way.
What to do in Chandrataal Lake:
-Photography in and around the lake.
Part -II of this Ultimate Travel Guide to Spiti Valley …..COMING SOON 🙂