Virgin cold lands surrounded by glistening mountains, dotted with fir trees and set with a pristine backdrop, the word “Spiti” literally means ‘the middle land’. Located in Himachal Pradesh at a height of 12500 feet above sea level, the valley gets only about 250 days of sunshine every year – easily making it one of the coldest places in an otherwise almost equatorial country like India. The thick Himalayan snow cuts the valley off for most of the year – it is only in the months of summer that Spiti opens up to her tourists.
Spiti separates India from Tibet, and has always been a passage of rich culture and heritage that has been exchanged and passed to either of the country. With its bare minimum population, the valley is home to many popular adventure sports and activities. Tourists who wish to experience a washing sense of calm and relief along with a heavy dose of an adrenaline rush absolutely adore this destination. From Spiti spring up a lot of trekking trails that go as high as taking you to the base of the Himalayas. An easy 1.5 kilometer trail along the Spiti River from the Dhankar Monastry to the Dhankar Lake leaves you with a breathtaking view of the villages below. Another popular tourist activity is the mountain ropeway from Kibber to Chichum that offers a beautiful view of the valley below, as well as a panoramic view of the mountains on the side.
Spiti houses some of the oldest monastries in the country – be it the Key Monastry that has a fort-like structure resembling traditional Chinese architecture or the Tabo (Dalai Lama’s favourite monastry), Lhalung and Gandhola Monastries. The Chandratal lake is famous for being shaped like a crescent moon and the Suraj Tal lake is the third highest lake in India, making it an ideal spot for camping.
Spiti is a culture that believes in the mystic forces of nature, complete with healing trees, talking spirits and monks with supernatural powers. Their Keylong festival falls between 14th to 16th August, where artists from Spiti and from places like Chandigarh and Dharamshala also participate. Their annual Ladarcha trade fair is also held in July, where people come from Ladakh, Rampur Busher and Spiti come to barter their produce.
While the summers are the ideal season to visit Spiti, the ones who wish to explore the extreme may try their luck with the winters. The snow leopard expedition steals the show during such a visit. However, travelling to Spiti during monsoons are highly inadvisable, considering the amount of landslides and storms the area goes through, blocking the Manali highway as well.
For accomodation, government and private guest houses are well-known in the valley, but homestays are rather prevalent as they help you blend in with the culture quite effortlessly. Food does not vary much here – however you do find the Tibetan cuisine served in all its glory.
Spiti Valley is an exquisite land with a charm of its own, and what better way to indulge in it than to visit it for yourself?