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Kee Monastery, Spiti

Popular Destination

Spiti Valley

Should a slice of the moon float out and land on earth, you could find yourself gazing at the surreal moonscapes in the sheltered highlands of Spiti. Loosely translated Spiti means ‘middle country’, a name it has inherited for being the geographical link between India and Tibet. Fed by fast flowing streams that rush to meet Spiti river cutting through the middle of the valley, the land is a cold desert with freckles of green over a dry weather-beaten face. It is characterized by a stark relentless beauty, at places crowded by narrow valleys and high mountains and at places by wide plains. A century ago, Rudyard Kipling in the novel Kim described Spiti as ‘a world within a world’, ‘a place where the gods live’ – something that holds true to the present day. The lunar-like landscape is flagged with Buddhist monasteries, small villages, chortens and abundance of natural beauty, which include some very scenic high altitude lakes.
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 Road: From Manali to Kaza there are regular buses from July to October. From Shimla via Kinnaur there are regular buses from May to October.
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 visitKm
Dhankar Monastery34
Kunzum pass78
Kye monastery12
Thang Yug Gompa11
Tabo monastery50
Delhi to Manali575
Manali to Keylong122
Keylong to Kaza188
Kaza to ReckongPeo190
Reckong Peo to Shimla221
Shimla to Delhi380
  1. Watch Snow Leopard and test your stamina at Pin Valley National Park.
  2. Watch the nature made mummy kept in an open glass box at Giu Village.
  3. Be a part of the Lossar celebrations and discover the many colours of the festivities.
  4. Feel the spiritual beauty of Chander Tal.
  5. Watch the pure beauty of Glacier and enjoy the ride at Kunzum Pass.
  6. 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.
Ladarcha Fair
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.

STD Code01978
Tourist Information Centre, Shimla0177-2654589, 2654589, 2832498
Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Shimla0177-2625924, 2625864, 2625511
Fax:0177-2625864, 2625864
HPTDC’s Marketing Office, Shimla0177-2652561/2658302
Deputy Commissioner, Shimla-1710010177-2655988/2653535
Deputy Commissioner, Kinnaur, Reckong Peo-17210701786-222252
Deputy Commissioner, Kullu-17510101902-222727
Additional District Magistrate, Kinnaur, Pooh-17211101785-232222
Sub Divisional Magistrate, (Urban), Shimla-1710010177-2657007
Sub Divisional Magistrate, Rampur-17200101782-233002
Sub Divisional Magistrate, Nichar01786-253201
Sub Divisional Magistrate, Kalpa01786-222253
Sub Divisional Magistrate, Kaza-17211401906-222302
Sub Divisional Magistrate, Keylong-17513201900-222225
Sub Divisional Magistrate, Udaipur-17514201909-222224
The permits are issued for groups of four or more persons and the tour needs to be sponsored by a recognised travel agent.
Literacy Rate
Tabo (Lahaul & Spiti)

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.

Dhankar Monestry (Lahaul & Spiti)

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 Monastery (Lahaul - Spiti)

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.

Kibber village(Lahaul & Spiti )

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.

Pin Valley
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.
Kungri Monastery
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.

Pin Valley

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.

Lingti Valley
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.