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Why Spiti Valley is the "Shire" of India?

     

Lahual and Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh is a paradise for those who are willing to bend their bodies a little and are interested in visiting places away from the mainstream destinations, like the Shimlas and Manalis. It is around 140kms (approx.) from Manali and is fairly less travelled.

"Spiti" is famously called the middle land. The word Spiti denotes the middle land between Tibet and India.

A Different World

Why Spiti Valley is the "Shire" of India?-1 For the people coming from plains who are usually busy in the hustle of city life, you will find a dead silence in the atmosphere, the silence that is missing in the cities. All the pictures that you imagine in your head from the comforts of your home, the pictures of places that you see in your daily lives, from the cover pages of notebooks to those fancy destinations in the TVs, they find a place in reality in Spiti. The pictures of green grasslands with horses chewing on them; and nobody, not a single person in the vicinity which you fantasize and always aspire to visit, Spiti Valley is just the right place for realizing and living those fascinations. The very peace, city dwellers try to find in yoga, meditations, night clubs, pubs and what-not, is what Spiti offers (free of cost).

The Journey

Why Spiti Valley is the "Shire" of India?-2 One of the reasons for Spiti being hidden is the roads leading to it. It’s like the journey of Frodo Baggins to Rivendell, in reverse of course. The well maintained concrete roads end at the highway from Rohtang pass which leads to Keylong. For Spiti Valley, you have to get down on the highway and then embark upon a bone breaking journey of 6 hours, at least via Kunzum Pass. The road condition isn't up to the mark so be ready for a tiring road trip. The moment you enter Spiti you see that the roads leading to the valley are filled with big stone boulders and many-a-times streams of water flooding the roads. Its arrogant mountains test humans on every level possible (Physical, Mental and Spiritual). That is why Spiti Valley is far less travelled than any other destination. It requires a certain amount of testosterone, a madness, a zeal to befriend those deserted roads and those defiant mountains and that is where the character of a true traveller is tested and revealed.

In the lap of Spiti

Why Spiti Valley is the "Shire" of India?-3 After reaching Spiti, you'll be at a loss of words. The experience is surreal. You will realize the kind of thing you have been missing all your life while travelling to those glittering mainstream tourist attractions. It is a place like the Hobbit's Shire, where there are grasslands, white mountains and a desert of stones as far as the eye can see. It will take time for you to come out of your awe of the view and realize that the high altitude and oxygen present around you is not in the amount that you are used to. The metaphor 'loss of breath' might materialize during Spiti Valley trip.

A Place Better Than Home

Why Spiti Valley is the "Shire" of India?-4 However, the indigenous population of Spiti is the real beauty of the place, unlike the Hobbits of Middle Earth, when they celebrate Bilbo's hundred and eleventh. Their humble attitude and helpful nature will make you forget all the selfishness and wickedness of cities. They don't expect anything in return for the huge favors they will do on you apart from a bit of humbleness from your side. You tell a thing about your life and they will open their hearts to you. If you don't have the money or you are on a tight budget, do not worry at all, for you will be well fed and well-kept without any charges (does not mean you should not carry money because they too have to work hard for their meals). You should not fear getting stuck in the humongous mountains of Spiti Valley because there will be too many hands to help you (*that is if they find you).

The Beast

Why Spiti Valley is the "Shire" of India?-5 One important thing is, you should not consider Spiti valley to be the ever-loving mother showering all her love onto people. You will have to be flexible in your approach and respect the conditions. The mountains will annoy you every now and then, blocking your ways and making your trip longer after a long day walk/drive. The valley is sparsely populated, so be cautious because if you are stuck and not lucky enough, help might not come. Lack of oxygen possesses the biggest challenge because the air is so thin that it gets really hard to breathe. Patience is the key while in the place because if not, Spiti can turn into a beast in an instant and the adventure of your life can turn into a horrible dream. But hey, The Ring could only be destroyed in Mount Doom, doesn't make the journey up to it any less exciting.

Places to visit in Spiti Valley

CHANDRATAL LAKE

Located at a height of about 14000 feet, this lake is located at a distance of 6kms from Kumzum Pass. It is also called as Moon Lake because of its crescent shape. There is no population around the lake except the camping enthusiasts. It freezes completely during winters. Local people around believe that this lake is visited by fairies in the night. The most beautiful panorama of this region is here. The lake took my breath away. The blue water made me feel as if it was sky’s sibling; so alike they were. The ripples created by fish, I tried stepping into the water but just when the tip of my feet touched the water, I withdrew it for it was ice cold. The mountains just made the lake look more majestic. The view of the moon in the sparkling waters made my trip more than extraordinary.

CHINCHUM ROPEWAY, KAZA

Kaza is situated along river Spiti and is the base camp for lots of treks. Reach Kaza to explore the vivid culture of the village. It is known for its festivals and ancient of all monasteries like Sakya Tangyud and Tabo monastery. Apart from this, there is an ancient palace of the king of Kaza. The Chinchum Ropeway is another such example that made me marvel at the human spirit. I tried using the ropeway that the local kids use daily to reach school and was little scared about making it back safely but yeah, except for some pain in the shoulders, nothing much happened (thankfully!). It was a memorable experience, though.

Also, Asia's highest located petrol pump is in Kaza. It makes you wonder about the number of resources nature has and on the same hand the man's madness to procure it.

DHANKAR MONASTERY

The best part of the journey for me was the monasteries- with their distinct Buddhist culture. The monastery at Dhankar is amazingly serene, with an ancient fort making a wall of protection around it. I sat there for a while and didn’t want to leave, the chants of mantras filling the air and spreading through the whole atmosphere. Dhankar monastery stands firm on a hill at a height of 13000 ft was once a fort and considered as one of the most remarkable monuments of Spiti valley when you drive between Tabo and Kaza. It has about 150 lamas residing within and holds rich Buddhist scriptures with beautiful descriptions and depictions of Buddhist culture on its walls. Not just these places but there are a lot more to see and capture. Another monastery which is worth a visit is Tabo Monastery. It is considered one of the oldest and still operating monasteries in India.

You can also visit the Dhankar Lake in Spiti.

KEY MONASTERY

Key or Ki Monastery, located at an altitude of 4100 metres is the biggest monastery of Spiti valley. It has around 250 monks who help to carry passenger goods, farming and other activities in summers while in winters mostly stay within the monastery engaged in their religious offerings. Apart from architectural sites, there are people of this valley who tell you about the traditions, festivals and culture of this place and greet you warmly. Interacting with people was immensely beneficial as I got to know a lot more than what a regular tourist can see.

PIN VALLEY NATIONAL PARK

Pin valley is situated along river Pin and offers a good trek to Kinnaur. The region is rich in flora with rarest of plant species along with fauna which includes snow leopards, red fox, snow cock, woolly hare and much more. Indian nationals are supposed to take a permit to explore the national park whereas the foreign nationals aren’t allowed in. This area is a great amalgamation of nature’s beauty with adventure. Must watch!

KIBBER

Located at a height of 4270m, Kibber is a small village with a total of 80 houses made of stone, all painted in white with red rooftops. It has a population of around 366 people and is the highest motorable village. The trails of Mt. Kanamo trek starts from here. Mt. Kanamo is the easiest trek which does not require any formal training beforehand apart from getting over the altitude sickness. Kibber Monastery, founded by Serkang Rimpochhe of Tabo give a perfect view of the of the surrounding landscapes covered in snow. The whole Spiti trip had been an unbelievable experience for me. It made me grow as a person in every dimension. It’s definitely a topography that I’d like to explore not just once but again and again and so should you.

Trip to Spiti is full of adventures and new travel experience. If you don't fear the Nazgul, and want to experience the adventure first hand, here is a fixed departure packed around a weekend coming soon in August!
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