This is a trip designed for you to get a glimpse of the fascinating story of Spiti, a tract of land high up in the Tibetan plateau and surrounded by imposing permanently snow-capped mountains. You get to travel to some of the highest villages in the world and experience Spitian culture through the eyes of its people by staying at traditional homestays. We take you to monasteries and cultural hubs so that you can immerse yourself in the Spitian way of life. The journey begins at Manali and meanders through the magnificent Rohtang and Kunzam passes. The drive takes you through the little known valleys of the Chandra, Spiti, Pin, and the mighty Satluj River and ends at Shimla.
Route: Delhi - Manali - Kaza - Dhankhar - Tabo - Komic - Kaza - Manali - Delhi
Activities: Trekking, jeep safari, yak safari, traditional home stay, cultural performances.
Duration: 10 days
Delhi to Manali: We drive along the historic and now a bustling expressway, the Grand Trunk Road, first built by the emperor Sher Shah Suri. The drive takes you through the Shivalik ranges and we gradually make our way to the middle Himalayan ranges to Manali
Manali: Manali is a small hill station bustling with tourists. We start early with a drive on the left bank of the River Beas to the village of Naggar, which is famous for the Russian artist Roerich's gallery. Naggar also has a famous castle and the views around the area are spectacular. We return to to Manali and drive to Solang, which is a paragliding and skiing zone.
Manali to Kaza: The day-long journey takes you through the 13,000 foot high Rohtang pass and we then descend into the valley of the River Chandra and over Kunzum. The entire drive is through landscape that will take your breath away.
Kaza: We first travel to the highlands of the left bank plateau for altitude acclimatization and return to Kaza for overnight stay. Visits include Kye village (30 minutes), and the Kye Gompa, the largest monastery in Spiti. The drive upto Kibber village (30 minutes), which at 14,000 feet above sea level, is the road head for the trade route into Ladakh over the Parang La Pass. We continue to the village of Gette and Tashigang (1 hour), high up in the mountains. If time permits, on the return journey you could even walk down a spectacular steep downhill trail to Kye Gompa, where jeeps pick you up for the drive back. The evening can be spent roaming the Kaza market where you may find interesting local handicrafts.
Kaza - Lhalung - Dhankhar: Lhalung is the largest village in the Lingti valley and is famous for its 1000 year old temple 'Serkhang' (golden temple) and possibly one of the oldest trees (dating back to over a 1,000 years). Lhalung is also known for its cultural performances. You get to participate and witness a cultural performance by the local folk artists and experience the warm hospitality of mountain people. An hours drive from Lhalung brings you to one of the most stunning locations in the Spiti valley, Dhankhar, the ancient capital of Spiti, which houses an ancient Monastery perched precariously between unique wind eroded structures.
Dhankhar - Giu – Tabo: Tabo is famous for its more than 1,000-year-old monastery. In 1996, the Tabo monastery celebrated its thousand years with a Kalachakra ceremony, which was presided over by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. You spend time exploring the monastery and the numerous temples at the monastery, before heading to Giu (1 hour). Giu is the furthest and most isolated village of Spiti, lying close to the border of Tibet (China). Giu village is also interesting as the body of an old monk ( 675 years old) sitting in meditation still exists intact albeit mummified. It is said that the hair and nails of this monk are still growing. After having a look around the village and at this interesting mummy, head back to Tabo, to spend the night.
Tabo - Langza – Komik: Drive to Langza village (2.5 hours), located in a large high mountain meadow with a beautiful mountain, Chau Chau Kang Nilda, towering above this village. Here we find evidence of the Tethy's sea before the Indian mainland collided with the Tibetan plateau and formed the Himalayas, which are still rising today. Sea fossils can be found a short trek (~1 hour) away from the village. From here visit the ruins of an ancient monastery deserted a few decades ago. The monastery has a unique location and the locals have interesting interpretations and legends about its location. Thereafter continue to one of Asia's highest villages, Komic (30 minutes) where you spend the night in a traditional homestay. Komic is also adorned by a legendary monastery. The day provides a fascinating insight into the Spiti way of life.
Komic - Demul – Kaza: We start early (preferably 7 am) and adopt the local mode of transport, yaks, to explore the Trans-Himalayan deserts and travel into the grazing pastures of the local livestock and wild herbivores (such as the blue sheep). This is also the hunting ground for the Tibetan wolf and snow leopard. If lucky, spotting of the wolf can be possible. We travel to a vantage point and finally make our way to the neighboring village of Demul, famous for its local brew (arak). From here we head to Kaza in jeeps (2 hours), and spend the rest of the evening shopping in Kaza.
Kaza – Manali: After an early (7 am) breakfast, drive back to Manali along the same route that we took to reach Kaza. Enroute we can visit Chandra Tal, the lake of the moon goddess. After crossing Kunzam La Pass (15,000 feet) we take a short detour to Chandra Tal, time permitting. Chandra Tal is placed between a low ridge and the main Kunzam range with an outlet into the Chandra river. The visit to Chandra Tal is dependent on road conditions and time availability in the event that one has to walk to the lake.
Manali – Delhi: We retrace our steps to Delhi (12 hours).
How your travel makes a difference to the local community & environment:
- All our activity partners are sourced from the local area, which ensures that they have a supplementary source of income. We have taken initiatives in conserving and preserving the local heritage and culture by bringing in homestays as an alternate accommodation for travellers.
- The homestays function in a rotation basis so that all the houses benefit out of tourism. The people in the village who are not providing accommodation provide assistance to us as chefs, field experts, guides, and provide pack animals.
- Considering that traditional art forms and the number of people who are practicing them are dwindling, we take extra care to incorporate these performances into our holidays. This ensures additional income and instills a sense of pride amongst community members, which comes handy in conservation work.
- More than 80% of the money from travelers is spent locally in Spiti between the homestays, our activity partners and select NGOs who are working to supporting our conservation initiatives.
- Briefings are given in thorough manner to our travelers about the background of the place, our culture and environmental sensitivity of the region.
- Local boys have been trained to take care of the fossils that were earlier being sold away to tourists without knowing the value of ammonites and trilobites. Instead of letting travelers walk around all the regions, we take care to take the travelers only to demarcated fossil lying areas in the mountain.
- 'Muse' and The Blue Yonder has been working together for last seven years and our partnership has grown into sharing the learning from working here to developing projects together even in the state of Kerala. Read about the recent installation of 2 KW On-Grid Solar Panel as part of our attempt to 'Create Compassionate Destinations through Conscious Communities
Trans-himalayan nomad trail
The traveler could also add a twist of excitement and adventure by traversing a part of this trail on yak back.