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A Complete Guide to Visiting Spiti Valley

A Complete Guide to Visiting Spiti Valley

By CarolUpdated Aug. 16, 2021

Spiti Valley is a good choice for those wishing to visit Ladakh. This cold desert mountain valley is scattered with villages that are filled with sights such as snow-capped mountains, surreal landscapes, ancient monasteries, and scenic lakes. There is plenty to do here as well, including challenging treks with beautiful scenery.

A trip to Spiti Valley is definitely worth your time and money. It is home to some of the best Buddhist monasteries like Key, Tabo, Kungri, Dhankar, and Komic. There are also many picturesque lakes like Chandra Taal and Suraj Taal.

Highlights

  • Chandra Taal is a crescent-shaped lake located at an elevation of 4,300 m (14,108 ft).
  • Key Monastery was established in the 11th century by Dromt?n, a student of the famous Bengali Buddhist religious leader, Ati?a.
  • The world's second-longest glacier, Bara Shigri glacier, can be viewed from Kunzum Pass.
  • Pin Valley National Park is home to the endangered snow leopard.
  • Suraj Taal is India's third-largest lake.

Where is Spiti Valley?

Spiti Valley is located at an elevation of 3,810 m (12,500 ft) in the Himalayan mountains, northeast of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The valley is bordered in the north by Ladakh, in the east by Tibet, and in the west by Kullu Valley.

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Why Visit Spiti Valley?

Spiti Valley is the place for the whole package of beautiful sights and adventure. There are many great views here as well as new experiences and unique cultures to discover and learn more about.

1. Sceneries

Spiti Valley is known for its many spectacular landscapes and sceneries. It is home to many picturesque lakes, such as Chandra Taal, Dhankar Lake, and Suraj Taal. There is also Komic, Asia's highest village, from where you can get an amazing 360o view of Spiti Valley.

Since Spiti is located high up, travelers can get amazing views of the mountain ranges surrounding the valley. They can also go to Kunzum Pass or Bara-Lacha Pass to see the snow-covered mountain ranges up close.

2. Trekking

Spiti is a paradise for advanced trekkers, as there are a range of trails with varying difficulties. The treks pass through different environments like snowy mountains, pretty lakes, and lush green valleys.

Some of the most famous treks include Parang La, Chandra Taal, Kanamo Peak, Beas Kund, Pin Parvati, and Pin Valley National Park.

3. Buddhist Monasteries

Since Spiti is located between India and China, the culture there is greatly influenced by Buddhist traditions. That is why Spiti is home to many Buddhist monasteries and temples. The monasteries are filled with artwork, scriptures, and statues depicting the Tibetan Buddhist religion.

There are five main Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Spiti: Key is the largest and most reachable; Tabo is the oldest; Kungri is the second oldest; and the other two are the Dhankar and Komic monasteries.

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When to Visit Spiti Valley

The most suitable time to visit Spiti Valley is between May and September. The weather during this period is sunny and pleasant and the valley is more accessible. Winter is not the ideal time to visit Spiti as the area receives heavy snowfall during winter.

Top 12 Places to Visit in Spiti Valley

There are so many remarkable places to visit in Spiti Valley. These are the places you can't miss:

1. Chandra Taal

Chandra Taal is a crescent-shaped lake located at an elevation of 4,300 m (14,108 ft) near Kunzum Pass. This lake is believed to be the site in the Mahabharata where Lord Indra's chariot picked up Yudhishthira, the oldest Pandava brother.

The main feature of the lake is its water, which changes from red to orange to blue to emerald green as the day ends. It is also a popular camping spot for people to set up bonfires and stargaze.

2. Key Monastery

Located near the Spiti River, Key Monastery is the largest monastery in the whole of Spiti Valley. It is believed to have been established in the 11th century by Dromt?n, a student of the famous Bengali Buddhist religious leader, Ati?a.

The monastery is home to ancient artifacts like painted Tibetan banners, manuscripts, stucco images, wind instruments, and a collection of weapons used to protect the monastery from invaders. It also serves as a training center for Lamas or spiritual teachers of Tibetan Buddhism.

3. Kunzum Pass

To get to Spiti from Manali, you have to cross Kunzum Pass. This pass is one of the highest in the world, located 4,500 m (14,764 ft) above sea level and 122 km (76 mi) away from Manali.

From here, travelers can catch astounding views of the Chandrabhaga Range and Spiti Valley. This is also where the world's second-longest glacier, Bara Shigri glacier, can be viewed up close.

4. Tabo Monastery

Tabo Monastery, located in Tabo village, is the oldest in Spiti Valley. It is located on the west bank of the Spiti River and was built by the revered Buddhist king, Yeshe-?, in 996. The monastery is nicknamed the "Ajanta of the Himalayas", as its walls are decorated with murals and paintings similar to those in the Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra. It is enclosed by mudbrick walls and comprises nine temples. It also houses a collection of manuscripts, Buddhist scroll paintings, stuccos, and frescoes.

5. Pin Valley National Park

Pin Valley National Park is a huge and expansive biosphere reserve located among the semi-frozen rivers in the Pin Valley. The park spreads over 1,150 km2 (444 mi2) and its main zone covers 675 km2 (261 mi2).

The park is renowned for being home to the endangered snow leopard. Apart from the snow leopard, travelers can also spot the Siberian ibex, bharal, red fox, weasel, marten, and several species of birds like snowcock, bearded vulture, chukor, golden eagle, and griffon.

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6. Dhankar Lake

Dhankar Lake is one of the most scenic spots in Spiti, located around 5 km (3 mi) from Dhankar Monastery. The lake is the perfect place for travelers looking to get away from the busy city life.

Amazing views of the lake's waters and the landscape of the Lahaul region can be captured from the lake. Travelers can admire the water's pristine blue color with the snow-covered mountains in the background.

7. Suraj Taal

Another great lake to visit in Spiti Valley is Suraj Taal. It is India's third-largest lake, located 4,950 m (16,240 ft) above sea level. This "Lake of the Sun God" is believed to have spiritual powers: a dip in the water can cleanse a person of their sins.

Suraj Taal is located near the Bara-Lacha Pass, the meeting point of the roads leading to Spiti, Ladakh, and Zanskar. From here, one can also visit Bhaga Valley, a region which is barren, rocky, and uninhabited.

8. Komic

Located over 5,000 m (16,404 ft) above sea level, Komic is the highest village in Asia, surrounded by snow-covered mountains and majestic valleys. It is located around 18 km (11 mi) from the town of Kaza.

The village is home to one of the main Buddhist monasteries in Spiti, Komic Monastery. A great activity in this area is hiking up the small hills surrounding the village, which are rich with fossils.

9. Dhankar Monastery

Dhankar Monastery is situated on the edge of a cliff, at an elevation of more than 3,600 m (11,811 ft). The monastery was built over a thousand years ago and is one of the world's endangered monuments.

From the monastery, one can get remarkable views of Spiti Valley and the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers. It is also one of the main centers of Buddhist art and culture, featuring a museum with Buddhist scroll paintings, scriptures, and murals.

10. Kibber

The small village of Kibber is located over 4,000 m (13,123 ft) above sea level and is surrounded by picturesque mountains and barren landscapes. It is the world's highest village, with a population of only 366 people.

The houses are built in the Tibetan style of architecture, all made of stone and in similar patterns. A great attraction here is the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary, which is the habitat for animals like the snow leopard, Tibetan wolf, ibex, bharal, and Tibetan woolly hare.

11. Kaza

The town of Kaza is the capital of Spiti Valley. Located at an elevation of over 3,500 m (11,483 ft), the town is situated along the Spiti River and is surrounded by cold desert land and lofty mountains.

The town is divided into two parts: old Kaza and new Kaza. Old Kaza includes the king's palace, monasteries, temples, and ancient buildings, and new Kaza houses government offices, hotels, and restaurants.

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12. Kungri Monastery

Located in Pin Valley, Kungri Monastery is the second-oldest monastery in Spiti Valley and the only one that belongs to the Nyingmapa order of Buddhism. Built in the 14th century, it is also one of the most vibrant monasteries in the region.

The monastery is frequented by pilgrims, travelers, and Buddhist scholars. It showcases various traditions and the culture of Buddhism through beautiful artworks, silk paintings of Buddhist deities, figurines, books, archives, and wall paintings.

Where to Stay in Spiti Valley

Accommodations in Spiti Valley vary greatly, from moderately priced guesthouses to nice hotels. Most travelers prefer to stay in the town of Kaza, where most accommodations provide western bathrooms and hot water. Each night of stay costs around INR 3,000.

In Kaza, the best available options are the Deyzor and Sakya Abode hotels. Hotel Deyzor has calm and cultivated surroundings, which are perfect for those who want to relax at night. It also has a restaurant and bar for guests who want to dine in.

The 12 rooms in Hotel Sakya Abode feature traditional Himalayan architecture and a terrace from where guests can enjoy the Spiti sun. They also provide hot water, housekeeping, and doctors on call.

Health and Safety Tips for Visiting Spiti Valley

As Spiti Valley is located at a high altitude, the main issue is altitude sickness. Travelers should adjust to the elevation at lower areas before heading up to Spiti. A medicine called Diamox can help if you start experiencing altitude sickness. Remember to stay hydrated, too.

The weather in Spiti is very cold, so layering is important. You should pack woolen clothing, winter jackets, sweaters, and jeans. Woolen socks and boots are essential to keeping your feet warm. You may also bring sunglasses and a cap to protect against the dazzling sunlight.

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How to Get to Spiti Valley

Spiti Valley can be reached from two places: Manali and Shimla. The roads here are rough and uncomfortable, and the best options for transportation are buses and jeeps.

Manali to Spiti

The road from Manali to Spiti is around 12 km (7 mi) and takes around 8-12 hours to traverse. On the journey, you will pass through the Rohtang and Kunzum Passes. Jeep is the recommended mode of transport, as the roads are winding, but it costs more than taking a bus.

This route has many different types of scenery. When you cross Rohtang Pass, you can see the beautiful Himalayan mountain ranges. At Kunzum Pass, you can marvel at the barren landscape and Chandra Taal before reaching the town of Kaza.

Manali is an attraction in itself, with amazing scenery. Coming from Manali is the most direct route to Spiti Valley. However, this route is only available from May to October. If you go by bus, you can only go in the morning.

Shimla to Spiti

The alternative to going from Manali is going from Shimla. The distance between Shimla and Spiti is around 420 km (261 mi) and takes around 16-20 hours. As the distance is much longer, the recommended mode of transport is bus.

Along the way, travelers can see a few great sights like Hatu Peak, Bhimakali Temple, Chitkul village, and the small town of Kalpa.

Although this route takes longer than the Manali one and there are not as many sights along the way, the roads are much smoother and wider. The road also ascends gradually, which means that travelers have a smaller chance of experiencing altitude sickness. It is also open all year round.

Explore Spiti Valley with Asia Highlights

Want to explore Spiti Valley but don't know where to start? Contact Asia Highlights! Our experts can help you plan a trip that is tailor-made to your preferences, make your bookings, and give you recommendations for a most wonderful trip.

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