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<< Indian Himalayas << Pilgrimage Travel Destinations >> << Pilgrimage Travel Lahaul & Spiti>>

Pilgrimage Travel Lahaul & Spiti

Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir
2,500 To 4,500m
Trekking, Mountaineering, Camping, Water Rafting, And Buddhist Monasteries
June To End September
Ladakh, Leh, Zanskar, Lahaul & Spiti

Lahaul and Spiti are two remote Himalayan Valleys of H.P. lying on the Indo-Tibet border. Strange, exciting, primitive, these valleys are unsurpassed in mountain scape, in the rugged beauty of their rocky escapements and the splendor of their snow covered peaks.
The Lahaul plateau nourished by the Chandra and Bhaga rivers and the Spiti valley linked to it by a high pass the Kunzam la, are together a district in Himachal Pradesh - another region where nature can be seen at its wildest. Lahaul is glacier country and some of its most dramatic glaciers include the Bara Shigri, Chota Shigri, Samundari and Sonapani glaciers.

Lahaul is marked by a central mass of uniformly high mountains and massive glaciers. The two rivers, Chandra and Bhaga which rise on either side of the Baralacha La, flow through the narrow Chandra and Bhaga valleys. Lahaul is a land of fascinating Buddhist art and culture. The monasteries of Lahaul-Spiti are rich repositories of ancient murals, thankas, wood carving and golden images of Padmasambhava. The valley lies at a height of 2745 metres above sea level. Summer in this valley is cool and pleasant with green grass and alpine flowers. There are little monsoon in both these valleys and this enables climbers & trekkers to enjoy a long and unbroken season in perpetual sunshine to explore the wilderness and grandeur of the inner Himalaya. This unique feature makes Lahul-Spiti as an ideal destination for tourists and trekkers in the month of July, August and September. Keylong is 115 kms. from Manali and is the District Headquarters of Lahul-Spiti District.

Oldest Gompha
Based at Keylong, visit Buddhist gompas and savour nature's spectacular sights. Some suggestions are Guru Ghantal (8km) regarded the oldest gompa in Lahaul and said to have been founded by the religious leader Padmasambhava in the 8th century.

Kardang (5km) has a library of Buddhist scriptures and houses exquisite thangka paintings, Shashur (3km) is surrounded by a rare patch of woodland and its 17th century gompa hosts Shashur Tseshe festival in June. Tayul (6km) means the 'place that is chosen' and has a huge statue of Padmasambhava.

Baralacha La (4,890 m 75 km) is an 8-km long pass where the paths from Zanskar, Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul meet; Suraj Tal (4,800m) is a lake just below the summit of the pass and is the source of the river Bhaga. Sarchu, on the route to Leh, is the last point in Himachal and has a tented colony for tourists. Trilokinath (53 km) has fine stone carvings and Udeypur (53 km) has an ancient temple.

Attraction in Lahaul - Manali with its forested slopes and beautiful scenery is the start of an arduous journey across some of the most fascinating landscapes in the country. The Rohtang pass is not far from Manali and takes one abruptly from the lush meadows of the Kullu valley into the barer hills and rocky landscape of Lahaul. At Gramphu the road from Spiti coming over the Kunzam pass meets the highway. Just 18-km from Keylong, the sub divisional headquarters, an imposing 7 storeyed structure, the fort of Gondla seems to guard the road.

Attraction in Spiti - Spiti which means ‘Middle Country’ is a vast highland basin for swift flowing glacial streams that have cut deep gorges into the mountain terrain. Among them pin and Lingti are the main streams that feed the Spiti River. The Lingti valley is a living geological museum noted for its shales and fossils, dating back 250 million years. The pin valley, a protected area with its National Park is the habitat of the ibex and snow leopard.

The valleys of Lahaul and Spiti are located to the south of Ladakh.  The Spiti sub-division is even more isolated than Lahaul.  The Spiti mountain ranges belong to the Great and Middle Himalayas and the sub-division lies at a mean elevation of over 4,000m. Since the valley lies in the rain-shadow area north of the Pir Panjal ranges, the weather remains quite comfortable during the summer-it seldoms rains, and the mercury never goes above 30 degrees or below 15 degrees.  Local people divide Spiti into four areas-the Sham or the lower regions; Pin, which lies on both sides of the Pin river; Bhar, the middle region, which is also the local name for the Spiti valley; and the Tud, which includes all portions of territory above the Bhar.

A Traveler's Experience

It was our honeymoon and we had planned on a Sangla-Kalpa trip. But after having come so far, we couldn’t resist visiting the nearby Spiti valley.  Equipped onlyn with our inappropriate Maruti 800 we for-ayaed into some  of  its remote recesses.After lush-green, colourful and vibrant Kinnaur, entering Spiti is a shock.  From Phu onwards the green morphs into a red Mars-scape of high altitude desert.  The clear Sutlej reflects the blue of the cloudhigh ridges.  The mountains are naked here and the expanse is wide and desolate. The terrain is stunningly beautiful, but tough to live in. In the immense labyrinth of the Ki monastery, narrow corridors lead us through dark passages to scattered chamber rooms.  Beautiful murals and thangkas studded the walls.  From the village below, the monastery is spectacular.  Perched on a conical hill between two wind-hewn craggy ridges, rises the massic white pyramid of Ki-a bunch of low-roofed rooms hugging the hill all the way to the top.

On our return from Ki, near Sichaling we craned our necks and looked up at the Dhankar fort-our little 800 could not tackle the road up. Ruled for many centuries by a  hereditary Nono or Wazir, Dhankar was once the capital of Spiti. The fort, another uncanny citadel, is built on a spur projecting into the main valley and ends in a precipice.  The Nono also used it as a dungeon to house prisoners, and it stood guard against invading enemies.

Apart from the beautiful monasteries and remote villages Spiti also has some exciting wildlife.  The Pin Valley National Park, located in the Pin Valley of Spiti, is home to endangered species like the snow leopard, Himalayan ibex, the bharal or the blue sheep and the lynx.

We were trailed by clear blue skies and sunshine as we made our way out of Spiti. The weather report predicted torrential rains for most of the country, and we’d much rather have stayed back in Spiti. But we still had a honeymoon to catch up with.

High Altitude Travel - Just Some Tips

All visitors must ensure they are physically fit before visiting Ladakh or Lahaul and Spiti. The high altitude environment is demanding. People with heart or lung ailments must consult their doctor before planning a trip.

Acclimatization is mandatory for visitors travelling by air. It is important to take complete rest for the first 24 hours after arrival and as much rest as possible for the next 12 hours. People travelling to altitudes above 10,000 ft. are likely to suffer from acute mountain sickness. The most common symptoms are, disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, nausea, coughing, irregular breathing, breathlessness, lassitude and lack of concentration. In its more serious form acute mountain sickness can be life threatening and so needs immediate medical attention.

How to reach there : 

You can enter Spiti either from the east, from the Hindustan-Tibet Road, or from the west, over the Rohatang and Kumzum passes. I recommend the first route, with stops at narkanda, Sangla and Kalpa.

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