You will always have the chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Weekend getaways to be close to nature are plenty in our beautiful country. But what about the chance to explore pristine, virtually untouched terrain? Scenes so devoid of our human footprint, that they will take your breath away? Dust out your backpacks and slip into your trekking shoes, because we’re taking you to Spiti!
Difficult roads, altitude sickness and and treacherous slopes marr the route to this arid paradise. The destination at the end of this is worth every obstacle. The harsh travel to get here is possibly one of the reasons that the area has remained in such a pristine, untouched condition. For those who are willing to make the commute, here’s how you can ensure you make the most of your trip to one of the country’s northernmost reaches.
Kalpa and Khab
Image courtesy: vargiskhan.com
Make your way from Shimla to Spiti, via. Kinnaur, you will chance upon the town of Kalpa, in the Sutlej river valley. While Kalpa is famous worldwide for its apples, you should visit it for its ancient temples, forests and the breathtaking view of the snow-capped Kinnaur-Kailash mountains.
A stone’s throw away is Khab, a sleepy village located at the confluence of the Sutlej and Spiti rivers. Also located here is the ancient Tashigang Gompa, a sacred site for Buddhists. The Gompa draws tourists by the dozen for its Tibetan drum, exquisite frescoes, paintings, images, books, Buddhist statues and idols.
Watch in awe as the commercialized center of Shimla falls away making way for the relatively deserted, winding, mountainous terrain that leads you to Spiti. The valley itself is located smack between Tibet and the Indian mainland. Surrounded by high mountain ranges, makes it one of the least populated places in the country.
The mountainous terrain is dotted with tiny hamlets and serene monasteries perched precariously on the slopes of mountains. These hamlets are home to smatterings of mud-brick homes and barley fields. The sparse network connectivity and otherworldly scenery guarantee you a complete detachment from drab reality.
Gue: The village of the Lama Mummy
Image courtesy: nativeplanet.com
Deep within the Spiti Valley, liles the tiny village of Gue, the home of India’s only known naturally preserved mummy, believed to be over 600 years old! According to local lore, the body is that of a lama named Sangha Tenzin. It is believed that the lama sacrificed his life to rid the village from a plague of scorpions. Villagers worship the mummified figure as God and still pray to him for guidance.
Dhankar Monastery and Key Gompa
The Dhankar Gompa is recognised by the World Monuments Fund as one of the world’s 100 most endangered sites. It is located on a cliff above the confluence of the Spiti and Pin rivers, the ancient Gompa commands one of the most spectacular views in the Country. Dhankar was once the capital of the Spiti Valley Kingdom and has landmarks that date back to the 12th century.
One of the most famous sites in Spiti, is the Key Gompa, the biggest in the Spiti Valley and home to over 250 monks. The monastery has a collection of ancient murals and books, including Buddha images.The monastery walls are decorated with stunning paintings and murals and the architecture, that has Chinese influences, dates back to the 14th century.
The gem of your visit to Spiti is undoubtedly a visit to Chandrataal. A pristine crescent shaped lake situated at an altitude of 4,300 meters. Trek here or make your way via a motor road in an SUV. A rough journey at best, to make it to one of the most surreal scenes you will see in your lifetime.
The beautiful crescent lake is surrounded by scree mountains on one side and a concave cirque formation on the other. During the spring, the mountain sides and lake banks are carpeted with meadows and wildflowers and makes the perfect spot to pitch a tent and camp out.
The Spiti Valley is gorgeous and isolated. While the journey there is difficult and not for everyone, the views and the rich ancient history of the place make it well worth the effort. Excited? Book Spiti Tour
Written by: Caryn Putman
Caryn is a Social Media expert and history buff, desperate for any chance to travel. She loves animals more than most people and prefers sunny days at the beach to freezing mountaintops.