The people of Spiti are largely Buddhists and most are followers of the Gelukpa sect. Religion plays a major role in everyday life, testified by the piles of ‘mani’ stones, prayer flags and ‘chortens’. The repetition of the mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ (literally, ‘Behold the Jewel in the Lotus’) is hummed along by all to bring good fortune by purging one off all sins.
In isolation for centuries, Spiti has had an introversive culture where life remained focused around its monasteries. It was loosely ruled by hereditary wazirs, a self-styled ‘Nono’, and in between for brief periods, the valley was also attacked by invaders from neighbouring kingdoms. Spiti faced attacks from the warring princely states of Kullu and Ladakh in a bid to control the area. An army from Jammu and Kashmir, led by generals Ghulam Khan and Rahim Khan, did invade Spiti in 1841 AD. A few years later, in 1846 a Sikh army raided the valley. Finally East India Company took possession of Spiti in 1846 after cessation of cis-Satluj States on conclusion of the first Anglo-Sikh War. On the ground nothing changed and the Nono of Kyuling continued to rule as the hereditary Wizier of Spiti.
Language: Hindi, Punjabi, English are understood and spoken by the people engaged in tourism trade.
Temperature: The temperature goes till 26.8 o C and minimum at 1.38 o C. In winters, Lahaul and Spiti district receive a very cold temperature in winter. Snow fall is very common from December to February when the temperature may fall sub-zero.
Clothing: Light woolens clothes in Summer and heavy woolens in winter.
Where to stay: Small hotels and camps at Tabo, Kaza and Kibber. At Kaza, Himachal Tourism runs the Tourist Lodge. Medical facilities are available at Kaza, Tabo, Sagnam and Kibber. All prescription medicines should be carried along. While travelling to the higher areas, adequate medical precautions should be taken.
By Rail: Jogindernagar is the nearest railway station. The rail route from Jogindernagar to Chandigarh is a narrow guage one. Shimla and Chandigarh are the nearest broad guage railway stations. Buses and taxis are available from Shimla and Chandigarh to reach Spiti.
By Air: Spiti can be reached either from Manali or via Shimla. Buses and taxis can be hired from Manali to Kaza. Flights from New Delhi, Chandigarh and Kullu operate on a daily basis to Shimla airport.
How To Get Around: Local buses operate regularly. Taxis are also available
|Places to visit||Km|
|Thang Yug Gompa||11|
|Delhi to Manali||575|
|Manali to Keylong||122|
|Keylong to Kaza||188|
|Kaza to ReckongPeo||190|
|Reckong Peo to Shimla||221|
|Shimla to Delhi||380|
- Watch Snow Leopard and test your stamina at Pin Valley National Park.
- Watch the nature made mummy kept in an open glass box at Giu Village.
- Be a part of the Lossar celebrations and discover the many colours of the festivities.
- Feel the spiritual beauty of Chander Tal.
- Watch the pure beauty of Glacier and enjoy the ride at Kunzum Pass.
- Visit the Kye Monastery to find spiritual solace.
A community celebration and a moment of getting together, this is celebrated at the height of winter in December-January.
Celebrated in February, ritual dances and a rich imagery mark Lossar. This marks the start of a new year and is celebrated in all the monasteries. The rituals include the stylised chaam dance, with elaborate costumes and masks. Lossar also commemorates the assassination of the cruel Tibetan king, Lang Darma in the ninth century.
A traditional trade fair, this is held every July/August in Kaza and is a time when a variety of goods are bartered and sold.
|Tourist Information Centre, Shimla||0177-2654589, 2654589, 2832498|
|Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Shimla||0177-2625924, 2625864, 2625511|
|HPTDC’s Marketing Office, Shimla||0177-2652561/2658302|
|Deputy Commissioner, Shimla-171001||0177-2655988/2653535|
|Deputy Commissioner, Kinnaur, Reckong Peo-172107||01786-222252|
|Deputy Commissioner, Kullu-175101||01902-222727|
|Additional District Magistrate, Kinnaur, Pooh-172111||01785-232222|
|Sub Divisional Magistrate, (Urban), Shimla-171001||0177-2657007|
|Sub Divisional Magistrate, Rampur-172001||01782-233002|
|Sub Divisional Magistrate, Nichar||01786-253201|
|Sub Divisional Magistrate, Kalpa||01786-222253|
|Sub Divisional Magistrate, Kaza-172114||01906-222302|
|Sub Divisional Magistrate, Keylong-175132||01900-222225|
|Sub Divisional Magistrate, Udaipur-175142||01909-222224|
|The permits are issued for groups of four or more persons and the tour needs to be sponsored by a recognised travel agent.|
A highly revered monastery that is more than a thousand year old, Tabo (altitude 3050m) at first glance appears nothing more than a cluster of large mud huts. Inside are a series of amazing galleries of wall paintings and stucco statues. Founded in 996 AD, this is the largest monastic complex in Spiti. The old section has nine temples, 23 chortens, a monks chamber and a nuns chamber. There are several caves and contemporary structures that form a part of the Tabo complex. In Trans Himalayan Buddhism, Tabo monastery is next only to Tibet’s Tholing monastery. Tabo is 50 km for Kaza.
Driving between Nako and Kaza, on a branching road, 7 km from a place called Schichling, dramatically hanging on a cliff side is the Dhankar monastery. In local parlance, ‘Dhankar’ is a fort, and that is the role that this monastery once served. Perched high, guarding the valley, this monastery is a superb example of Spiti’s building and architectural skills. The monastery also served as a castle for the Nono, ruler of the valley. Today Dhankar (altitude 3370m) is a repository of Buddhist scriptures in the Bhoti script. At a higher elevation from the monastery is the Dhankar lake.
Nestling in a flat valley, at an altitude of 3660 m, Kaza is the administrative headquarters of Spiti. It has a marketplace, medical facilities, a filling station, rest houses and hotels. Kaza serves as the base for excursions in the area and Kee, Hikkim, Komik and Langja monasteries can be easily reached from here.
Kee (Ki, Kye) Monastery
On a volcanic shaped hillock, sheltered by towering cliffs, high on the left bank of Spiti river is Kee monastery (4116m). It is only 12 km from Kaza. The monastery is a collection of rooms and a labyrinth of corridors that do not follow any definite plan, but seem to have grown over the years. No definite date can be ascribed to construction of the Gompa that acted as monastery and as a fort. Some scholars believe it was built by Drompton (1008 – 1064 AD), a buddhist disciple. Where others differ and place its origins to later centuries however, by and large, most concur that it was built before the fifteenth century.
Kee is the repository of rare Thangka paintings and several ancient musical instruments of cymbals, drums and others. A library here contains manuscripts of sacred Tangyur texts. Apart from the cells occupied by the monks, the Gompa has a large du-khang assembly hall and chamber that is lined with religious paintings. There are several chambers for worshiping in the complex. The chamber of the incarnate abbot Zim-chung is the highest point of the building. The village of Ki is at a short distance from the monastery.
Only 8 kms from Ki village, Kibber (altitude 4205m) till recently was the highest inhabited village in the valley that was connected by a motorable road. It also acts as the base for several high altitude treks.The Kibber Sanctuary, spread over 1400 sq. kms, lies past the village and is a habitat for blue sheep, ibex and snow leopards.
At Atrangoo, 10km from Schichling village, a side-road leads to this valley formed by the Pin River. Pin at its origin is fed by the Kungri glacier and is a tributary of Spiti. The valley has several monasteries. The most important one is at Kungri.
Guru Padmasambhava sometime in the 14th century founded the Kungri Monastery. It belongs to the Nyingma sect and is considered as one of the oldest monasteries of Spiti. There are about 80 resident monks here. The monastery is 3 km from Gulling village.
Spread over three blocks the Kungri monastery is a favourite among scholars, pilgrims, and tourists who want to stay back for months or longer, to live the life of a monk without disowning ones own religion. The Gompa has a prized collection of over 380 Thangka paintings and many old relics. A traditional ‘Devil and Sword Dance’, performed by the monks each year in July is a good time to glimpse the religious life of the community.The other monasteries at Tangti, Sagnam, Phar, Todnam and Kangri at Mud village are village monasteries.
The Pin Valley is good trekking country where the main route connects the Kullu valley with Spiti over the Pin Parbati pass, while another one through Bhawa valley leads into Kinnaur.The Pin Valley is a National park with a core area of 675 square kilometres and has a buffer zone of another 1150 square kilometres. The sanctuary protects over twenty species of animals and birds with the highly endangered snow leopard being one among them. The other species found here are the Ibex, Bharal, Red Fox, Marten, Weasel, Snow Cock, Bearded Vulture, Chuckor, Golden Eagle, Griffon and Himalayan Chough Weasel.
Passing through a deep gorge the Lingti stream, one of the Spiti’s tributaries, flows down from the north. The valley offers some strenuous treks.