The Valley of gods: Lahaul-Spiti
Of village walks, monastery trails, homestays and bicycle days.
Lahaul-Spiti valley in Himachal is a place of wonder. Spiti in Tibetan means the Middle land as it is located between Tibet and India, and it retains a very strong Buddhist culture. Lahaul has a greener landscape a hardy grassland, but is mostly a mass of uniform high snowcapped peaks and even glaciers. Rivers of Chanda and Bhaga cut through the mountain ridges thus making it more prone to vegetation. Also it is lower in altitude. Spiti is a high altitude cousin of the same characterized by barren lands, denudated rock faces, hostile roads and bone chilling temperature. However it also boasts of ancient monasteries, not the glossied ones like in Ladakh, but those that have retained their stoic nature housing a treasure trove of ancient flags, thankas and prayer wheels. Quaint villages dot the highway, and landscapes that are a photographer’s dream.
Spiti Lahaul is also mostly a journey into yourself. Long drives, beautiful landscape all around you and a few good companions should make it a journey you will never ever forget.
Highlights of this region:
1. Quaint Villages: There are so many of these high altitude villages in Spiti, and the sound quite similar but each has a different flavor and an ambition of being the highest inhabited village in Asia.
Kibber , at an elevation of 14010ft is a remote village in the valley with a population of 341. It has a post office, a polling and a Senior Secondary School too. It also gets military protection. It is said to be the highest village in India which is inhabited throughout the year and has motorable roads.
Kye village is located at an elevation of 13700ft and is overlooked by the largest monastery in the region. The gompa houses 250 monks in the winter months, and these monks spend the summers working in the fields with their respective families.
Komic located at 14800ft is the highest village in Asia. Now it has an (almost) motorable road too. Breathing is a little difficult so very hectic activity is not suggested. However, there are the ruins of a gompa to look forward to and the Komic Monastery to visit.
Dhankar was once the capital of Spiti-located near Tabo, it is at a height of 12700feet . It is an awe-inspiring sight perched precariously over a cliff. It also houses an ancient monastery and this monastery, just like Kye Monastery is built in a manner of a fort, to keep at bay attacks from the enemy.
Many of these villages also have a homestay option where locals let you stay with them, and you get a closer look at their lives in these mountains.
2. Ancient Gompas or monasteries which look over each of these villages, not only date back centuries but also house many ancient thangkas, ancient musical instruments . Kye is the largest gompa in the Spiti Valley and houses the largest numbers of lamas who are educated here. Tabo is the oldest in the valley and is a Unesco world heritage site. Komic , Kibber also have active monasteries. Komic is said to be the highest village in Asia and has only 120 residents, who are very hospitable.
3. Beautiful landscapes: Oh yes Spiti Lahaul is a photographers paradise. From gentle alpine slopes to rocky barren ranges, crystal clear lakes to melting snowlines, you have it all here and put in a dash of shadowplay from the sun, and there you have a masterpiece.
Natural wonders like Chandertal Lake and Dhankar Lake are beautiful pieces of work and pictures don’t do justice to their magnificence.
4. Simple kind of life: The Buddhist philosophy of a simple living is seen and practiced in abundance. Most of the year these villages are cut off from the rest of the world, and when its open, tourists like you and me visit them. Some of the villages even have fences, but only to keep snow leopards at bay. Their live is simple and uncomplicated and most methods used, whether in cooking or farming are centuries old. However some of the villages do have satellite television too.
5. Adventures: From dizzying passes of Rohtang to Kunzum la, to treks and to the crystal clear Chandertal, to treks all the way to Ladakh. This region has something for a hand core adventure a enthusiast. The roads are mostly dirt tracks, and they go winding around some of the highest mountains in the region-so its easy to say Spiti is not for the faint-hearted.
Lahaul Spiti is fragile land that can be marred by an influx of too many tourists who can leave a greater footprint than desired. The beauty of this land lies in its simplicity and only those who understand, appreciate and respect it are encouraged to travel.
The Blueberry Trails is proud to announce its first Group departure trip to Spiti this year in September. The trips are designed around exploring this wonderland, village walks, monastery trails, bicycle days and slowly soaking in the culture and feel of this magical land in the Himachal.
What: Lahaul And Spiti: Of Village Walks, Monastery Trails And Homestays
When: 13th – 20th July 2016
Where: Lahaul Spiti Valley , Himachal
Group size: Max 8 people
Solo travelers advised: Yes
Event details: http://bit.ly/SpitiAug
Rudyard Kipling said of Spiti “the high hills were fashioned of the mere rubble and refuse from off the knees of the mountains… Surely the Gods live here”.
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