On the top of the World at Lahaul and Spiti

Rudyard Kipling, in his book, Kim, called Spiti, “A world within a world” and “A place where the Gods live”. Some hundred years have passed since and not many disagree with that statement.

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The district of Lahaul and Spiti is located in Himachal Pradesh and is the fourth least populous district in India. To enter Spiti valley from Lahaul, one has to pass through Kunzum la or the Kunzam Pass at an altitude of 14,931 ft. These two valleys, although close by, are pretty different from each other. Spiti is more barren and difficult to cross, with an average elevation of the valley floor of 14,010 ft. It is enclosed between lofty ranges, with the Spiti River rushing out of a gorge in the southeast to meet the Sutlej River. This typical mountain desert area attracts very little rainfall and footfall though the year.

The harsh climate allows very little vegetation to flourish. The locals farm potatoes, green peas and cabbage, mostly. But in these conditions, some of the rarest species of wildlife have made it home. The valley has snow leopards, foxes ibex, Himalayan brown bear, Musk deer, and Himalayan blue sheep. There are two important protected areas in the region that are a home to snow leopard and its prey including the Pin Valley National Park and Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary. If you’re patient or lucky enough you might get to spot a snow leopard prowling.

But that being said, Lahaul and Spiti are perfect locations for nature lovers and trekkers. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and find yourself in the rustles and whistles of the trees and winds, please look no further. Lahaul and Spiti are the combination of two districts. With little population and even lesser commercialization, this land is the perfect getaway for anyone who wants to get one with nature. The breathtaking snow capped hills and the craggy beauty of these regions lure the travelers. Lahaul and Spiti are two isolated Himalayan valleys of Himachal Pradesh that lie on the Indo-Tibet border. A beautiful land of captivating Buddhist art and culture- Lahaul is distinguished by inflicting mountains and glaciers while the vegetation, climate and the landscape of Spiti are similar to that of Tibet. That’s why the village of Spiti is also popular as ‘Little Tibet’.

In the year 1960, Lahaul Spiti became the districts of Himachal Pradesh. The culture is a pleasant mix of Hinduism and Buddhism. Lahaul is blessed by nature and fostered by Chandra and Bhaga Rivers while on the other side Spiti is a living museum and there are breathtaking trek routes, valleys and very popular monasteries that captivate tourists who visit here from different parts of the world. Spiti is famous as the ‘Land of the Lamas’, and the Tabo Monastery situated here has been acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and includes scriptures and wall paintings like Tankhas and Stucco.

And if you’re wondering that it might be a slow life and there won’t be much to do, you’re far from being right. Lahaul and Spiti play host to a number of fairs throughout the year. The valleys light up and there’s music, dance and food all around.

The Pauri fair, Ladarcha fair, Tsheshu fair, Tribal fair, Fagli festival, Gochi festival and Festival of light will keep you entertained. The valleys and villages are dotted with various temples and monasteries. The Trilokinath temple and Mrikula Devi temple are not to be missed. And then if you’re heading there, you would want to take note of the monasteries like Tabo Monastery, Kungri Gompa, Guru Ghantal Gompa, Yang Yud Gompa, Sashur Gompa, Gemur Monastery, Dhankar Monastery and Kardang Gompa.

A peaceful walk down these temples or monasteries will leave you in the company of some serene lakes like Chandra Tal Lake, Suraj Tal Lake and Dashir Lake. Carry a book and a pen, just in case you feel like writing a poem.

And then on the other hand, there’s more than enough adventure of an average adrenalin junkie to stomach.

People from all over the world come here for skiing, trekking and river rafting. Some of the popular trekking routes in this region include Kaza-Langza-Hikim-Komic-Kaza, Kaza-Ki-Kibber-Gete-Kaza, Kaza-Losar-Kunzum La and Kaza-Tabo-Sumdo-Nako.

And when your tired legs give up, the warm smiles in the hotels and homes will comfort you. A warm bowl of soup and a hearty conversation can be found in any of the popular restaurants around. Make sure to try as much Tibetan food as you can.

Sumptuous meals in large portions are available at any small eatery.Summers in the city might not seem appealing but here, in Lahaul and Spiti they provide a comfortable and pleasant weather through the months of May to October. And thus is clearly the best time to visit these beautiful valleys.

The mountains keep calling but rarely do we answer. Next time, pick up, pack up and leave. Lahaul and Spiti don’t disappoint.

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