One of the most remote regions of northern India, there are so many places to visit in Spiti Valley that every traveller can have their dream holiday. Spotting snow leopards, visiting ancient temples and experiencing traditional homestays are only some of the best things to do in Spiti Valley. If you are planning a trip to Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh state, this guide is the best way to start.
A fearless guide to Spiti Valley, what to do, where to stay and how to reach
** Guest post by Radhika Sharma from Nomllers travel blog
Spiti is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. No denying. Known as “the cold desert”, it lies in the upper Himalayas of India. It is known as the cold desert for a number of reasons. One, the land is mostly barren with sand all around, like a proper desert landscape. Secondly, its high altitude. Spiti Valley weather can be pretty extreme as temperatures sometimes go below zero. As a matter of fact, here during the winter season, it starts snowing. Hence the moniker of “cold desert”.
Below, you will find a step by step guide to travel in Spiti. Many aspects will be included, from the best types of accommodations, the places to visit and the typical cost of your Spiti Valley trip.
Top things to do in Spiti Valley
1. Visit Spiti’s oldest and beautiful monasteries
Spiti Valley is famous for its beautiful monasteries. Every village will have a monastery and some of them are believed to be among the oldest monasteries. Some of the most special ones are Tabo monastery, Kee Gompa and Dhankar monastery.
Tabo monastery is said to be the oldest monastery built in 996 AD and the 14th Dalai Lama had all the ceremonies and rituals here.
Furthermore, a peculiar thing about Dhankar monastery is that it is built on a 300-meter spur and from here you can see two rivers merging, Pin River and Spiti River.
2. Experience homestays in Spiti
Spiti is not about hotels or fancy resorts. Here, you will see the raw human life who lacks resources and luxury. Here, you get to stay in quaint homestays that have all the basic facilities and you will experience a completely different lifestyle. This is how you get to understand Indian culture, cuisine and simplicity. Also, with the help of locals, you can best be prepared for an unforgettable Spiti Valley trek.
3. See the snow leopard
The snow leopard is one of those animals that are not easily visible. But in Kibber, there are several expeditions and companies that help the tourists see the snow leopard during winter. In winter the entire village of Kibber is filled with snow due to which these animals come down from the high mountains and can be spotted easily during a Spiti Valley trek.
4. Send postcards from the world’s highest post office
Spiti cites the world’s highest post office in the world. Lying in the Hikkim village at an elevation of 4,400 meters, this place holds the record of having the world’s highest post office of the world. Many tourists send postcards from up here which is such a special feeling for the loved ones. This village is also very quaint, homely and peaceful.
5. Spend a day in the world’s highest motorable village
Spiti also has the world record for holding the highest motorable village. This village is near Hikkim, known as Komic and is at an elevation of 4,400 meters.
More places to visit in Spiti Valley – An example of a route to follow
Tabo is the first village in Spiti that comes on the way from Reckong Peo. This village is really small, quaint and peaceful and hosts the world’s oldest monastery. The monastery holds so much history and it tells the struggles as well as how simple the life of monks are. It was a truly eye-opening experience for me.
7. Dhankar Village, the perfect place for a Spiti Valley trek
Dhankar Village is about two hours away from Tabo. This village is famous for its monastery as well as the lake right in the middle of nowhere.
Dhankar Lake is considered to be a holy lake and from here you can see the snow-capped mountains in all its beauty.
To reach the lake you need to hide for half an hour to one how and you will attain a height of 4,200 metres.
Kaza is the capital of Spiti. This is where you will be able to find all the necessary facilities like ATMs, petrol pumps, shops and market, as well as numerous accommodation options. This village connects to every small hamlet and village. You can also rent a scooter to go to all the other villages from here.
9. Visit Kibber, Hikkim and Komic
The stretch of Kibber, Langza and Hikkim can be visited together. These villages are just half an hour drive away from Kaza and since no buses go to this place, travellers usually hire a private taxi or book a Spiti tour to visit these places.
Kibber is the village where you can spot snow leopards if you are lucky enough. From here you can also go to Komic and Hikkim, the villages that have the world’s highest motorable village and post office respectively.
10. Langza one of the most scenic places to visit in Spiti Valley
Langza is famous for its Buddha statue and this is the favourite spot for all the photographers. Photographers go during the night time to capture milky way along with the Buddha statue. Further, this village is located at an elevation of 4,400 metres and has a population of fewer than 150 people. Here you can also find fossils and if you go with the local kids, they will help you hunt for a few fossils, making your Spiti Valley trek all the more fascinating.
11. Chandratal Lake among the things to see in Spiti Valley
Chandratal Lake is the most famous spots of Spiti. The lake is so beautiful that it will take your breath away. The clear blue waters with reflections of barren desert land far away create a magnificent view of nature. Chandratal Lake makes for a wonderful Spiti Valley trek and is worth every penny.
Where to stay – Spiti Valley hotels and homestays
In Spiti, you won’t be able to find luxury resorts as here the resources are limited and life that people lead is raw. Here, accommodations are in the form of homestays. However, if you want to go deeper into the culture, you can also stay in the monasteries as well. They have well-furnished rooms for the tourists along with common washroom.
Homestays also serve food along with the stay. Meals are homemade cooked Indian food and you can enjoy the hospitality of the people of these homestays by eating along with them. Don’t miss out on the Indian tea here. In the mountains, drinking a hot cup of tea is the best feeling ever!
Although, as an additional information, you would be able to find hotels in Kaza. There are several ones of them especially in the main market area of Kaza, along with hostels where you can stay in a bunk bed.
How to reach Spiti Valley
Spiti can be reached from two sides. One is through Reckong Peo and the other is from Manali. Spiti is usually covered by travellers as a complete circuit. If you are coming from Manali, you can cover the entire circle of Spiti village and then leave the place from Reckong Peo, or vice versa. You can choose any route, it is up to you and your preference. Both the routes are equally serene. Although, from Reckong Peo you will be able to acclimatize your body a little better.
I followed the Reckong Peo – Manali circuit. There are buses running on this route, however, they are not frequent hence be sure to catch the bus at the given time.
If you are departing from Delhi to Spiti Valley, you can reach Reckong Peo, which is a beautiful hill station famous for its Kinner Kailash, by catching a bus that leaves Delhi at 8 pm. It takes around 18 hours to reach Reckong Peo by bus. Since there are no airports on the mountains the only way to reach here is either by a bus or hiring a private car.
Further, from Reckong Peo there is a bus that leaves for Spiti early in the morning and subsequently, there is a bus that leaves from every village at a particular time. Make sure to check the timings at every village so that you do not miss the bus for that day.
Typical cost for a holiday in the Spiti Valley
The major costs of Spiti are on the travel, stay and food. Unless you want to go ahead and do some adventurous activities like rafting, you can easily manage Spiti on a budget.
Going to Spiti Valley by bus
The bus from Delhi to Reckong Peo would cost less than INR 1,700 (24 USD). After Reckong Peo everything gets even cheaper. Once in the region, from one village to another, the bus costs do not exceed INR 50 (less than 1 USD). So travelling by bus is the most budget-friendly mode of transport. However, if you wish to stay more comfortable, you can also book private taxis from Delhi or Reckong Peo.
Stay at homestays and monasteries
Stay in homestays varies between INR 500-INR 1,000 (7-14 USD). The homestays that cost INR 1,000 (14 USD) also serve food. You can also stay in monasteries which is even cheaper. The stay in monasteries is even less than INR 500 (7 USD).
Food in Spiti Valley
If you decide to stay in monasteries food gets much cheaper. However, if you want to eat from small restaurants in these villages the total cost per meal would not exceed INR 150 (less than 3 USD).
A final word on your trip to Spiti Valley
No matter how many times you go to this place, Spiti will always call you back. You will always miss it and feel like going, again and again, to experience this beautiful place in the different seasons.
In fact, there is no season in which you can’t explore Spiti. Of course, it depends on you and in what season you would like to visit this beautiful valley. During winter, the place is full of white snow and it gets really cold, however, in summertime you can also see some greenery in a rather barren land. No matter what season and Spiti Valley temperature, the region will offer you stunning scenery and landscape.
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