The mysterious and stunning valley landscapes of Spiti are eternally frozen in a picture perfect frame. Meandering endlessly you come across a tiny village with a sign that proudly proclaims (Name: Nera; Population: 35; Cattle: 75) and you know you are at a place virtually untouched by time; that has been specially chosen for Mother Natures’ best work!
Stunningly beautiful mountains interspersed with stark homes with monasteries watching over them lovingly perched hundreds of feet above – Spiti is a place that all should visit atleast once in their lifetime.
While I was driving there, the challenges seem insurmountable; roads that get washed away with the slightest rain, areas that are cut off for days, paths that border perilously between a mountain and sheer drops of thousands of feet. But cars, motorbikes and cyclists battle their wits with the unforgiving landscape for the sheer thrill and unmatched beauty of the area– once you come here, Spiti will keep calling you back.
Spiti means ‘The Middle Land’ and is literally located in the middle of India and Tibet in the north-east part of Himachal Pradesh. A distinctive Buddhist culture and is one of the least populated regions of India and gateway to the nortehrnmost area of India.
The highlights of Spiti valley are the Ki and the Tabo Monasteries, which were also used as locations in a few films for their spectacular scenery. The Pin valley in Spiti is also home to a few surviving Buchen Lamas of the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism.
Spiti is also the summer home to hundreds of semi-nomadic Gaddi sheep and goat herders who come to this valley for grazing their animals from the surrounding villages and area. They enter the valley during summer as the snow melts and leave just a few days before first snowfall of the season.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Just miles of natural beauty! That is the beauty of Spiti – you will drive for hours against stunning scenery without coming across anyone; and even if you come across someone they will most likely be sitting around doing absolutely nothing.
Most villages get an hour of electricity everyday and they use it to quickly finish the chores; mobile towers are also switched only when you need to call someone! It really is life lived with utmost simplicity.
I stayed for a week with a family in Pin Valley and the warmth and hospitality I experienced would put any super luxurious five-star hotel to shame. The daughter of the house ran the home-stay and talked simply of her dreams to migrate to a city to study and make a career; and was in tears when it was time for us to say good-bye.
The simplicity of the people of Spiti is heart-warming. On a couple of nights when I chose to camp outside, a village youth decided to attach himself to me and was my constant guide and friend over the next few days. He helped me willingly with chores and was happy to just sit or walk around with me, and expected (and took) nothing in return but just easy conversation. I had to go looking for him on the day I was leaving and his father stood outside their home and shouted his name. As it echoed around the valley (he was perched on a mountain some distance away shooting the breeze); he came clambering down to give me a big hug. And that really encapsulates the spirit of Spiti.
You will see many bikers on the way who make their way on one of the most demanding roads of India. Sections of the road are occasionally washed away by the rain, so always keep an extra couple of days in hand.
At every village you will find one friendly villager or a small homestay who are willing to give you a room for a couple of nights. Meals are basic with a simple meat/chicken curry, lentils, egg preparations, paranthas and the good old Maggi being the mainstay of most menus. Or you can take your camping equipment and find yourself a good spot under the stars.
The Spiti Valley can be accessed via Kinnaur driving ahead from Shimla. The 412-km long road is not in very good condition and the drive is tough. Foreigners (non-Indians) need Inner line permits to enter Spiti Valley. Another route is through Manali via te Rohtang and Kunzum pass.
Delhi – Shimla / Narkanda
Shimla / Narkanda – Sangla / Chitkul (Kinnaur Valley)
Sangla – Chitkul – Sangla – Kalpa
Kalpa – Nako – Geyu Mummy – Tabo
Tabo – Dhankar – Pin Valley (Mud Village)
Pin Valley – Kaza – Ki – Kibber – Kaza
Kaza / Losar – Chandratal
Chandratal – Kunzum Pass – Rohtang Pass – Manali
Manali – Delhi