Spiti Valley | Strangers in the Hidden Himalayan land
Updated: Jul 13, 2020
Early in 2019, I stumbled upon a region called Tibet and was blown by its landscape images over the internet. Though very little information about Tibet exists for the world, I came across an Indian territory so close to Tibet and its cultures. This place happens to be Spiti Valley, a trans-Himalayan cold-dessert on the north-eastern Indian border, landlocked by India and Tibet. The name Spiti thus means 'the Middle land'!
When we zeroed on the destination and booked our tickets for the summer of 2019, we had little idea about the most dangerous and treacherous road trip we unknowingly signed up for! We explored Spiti along with Kinnaur Valley on a 10-day road trip to Spiti Valley in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
Starting from Shimla, we reached Tabo in Spiti on the third night of the journey. Though I had seen the numerous Instagrammed 'World's highest places' and monasteries from Spiti, I was otherwise clueless of what more should I be expecting in the valley!
And finally when Spiti unwound in front of our eyes, I was more than amazed by the land, its people and its cultures.
An Indian land, yet nothing Indian!
So, if you are someone looking for experiences of offbeat Himalayan destinations, Spiti Valley will definitely amaze you!!!
An Overview of the route to Spiti Valley -
Spiti valley can be reached either from Shimla or Manali in Himachal Pradesh. The route you chose depends on the season you travel and the present road conditions based on the snowfall the region received that year.
How to reach Spiti Valley from Manali -
Manali to Spiti is via the Leh Highway and NH505. One needs to cross the Rohtang Pass and the Kumzum La pass on these routes. Though this can be the shortest and fastest route via Chattru and Batal, it is also the most unpredictable route. The mountain passes are mostly covered in snow throughout the year. So, it is best to check the status of Rohtang Pass and Kunzum La before taking this route.
The routes are usually open during the summer months of June to September. However when we went in late June, the roads were still inaccessible due to heavy snowfall in June. Please do plan accordingly.
How to reach Spiti Valley from Shimla -
The route from Shimla to Spiti is usually accessible throughout the year. This route is via the old Hindustan Tibet Highway and NH05 Highway. Like us, you can plan to explore other regions of Himachal on this route. The Shimla - Spiti route is via the villages of Kinnaur valley.
There might be occasional delays on this route due to unexpected traffic jams caused by landslides or heavy showers.
This is a longer route and is suggested to halt for a night in-between.
Note - The roads are highly dangerous and treacherous. So always plan to travel in an SUV with good ground clearance and with drivers well aware of the terrains. Most importantly, listen to your local guide's or driver's instructions.
Best Time to Visit Spiti Valley -
Apart from the major hiccup of transport challenges, you have to plan your travel time.
Most of Spiti is covered in thick snow in the winter months from October to March. The temperature drops up to -30 degrees Celsius. April onward, the snow starts to melt but still may not be accessible to all the regions. June to September are the summer months and quite comfortable to see around the location in Spiti.
However, adventurers and wildlife enthusiasts do venture around Spiti during the winters. Also, many traditional festivals take place during the winter here. Life is otherwise tough and people spend their days mostly indoors during the winters.
Come on-board on a memorable Spiti Valley Road Trip-
Have a glimpse into my most adventurous journey of 2019 below. You can too include these among the things to do in Spiti Valley when you plan to visit Spiti.
The First Night in Spiti Valley -
The night we reached Spiti, we hurried for dinner after dropping our luggage in the hotel room. Tabo was pretty lively outdoors because of backpackers' hostels and cafes. A 5 minutes walk led us to an open area further from the cafes and under the dark sky. All I could see in that darkness was the shadow of the stupa in Tabo monastery. When we looked up, we found ourselves standing below a galaxy of shimmering stars and the aura of the milky way. I stood in that darkness for some more time and saw the stars multiply and a clearer vision of the universal beauty unfold.
*Tip - Don't miss a stargazing opportunity in Spiti valley for the sky looks so clear at this altitude. Tabo, Kaza, Langza, Hikkim, Kibber may offer some of the best stargazing experiences.
Tabo, Town of the oldest active monastery in Spiti -
Highlight - Tabo Monastery