Lahaul & Spiti: To Heaven and Back

Tripoto
30th Sep 2015
Photo of Lahaul & Spiti: To Heaven and Back 1/1 by Jasreet Chawla

An impromptu visit to Nahan, a small town in the Shiwalik ranges of the Himalayas, paved the way for a relatively better planned excursion to an often unabashedly snubbed blot on the map - Lahaul & Spiti. The closure of a day-and-a-half long getaway to Nahan, brought an exhausted and hungry us to a restaurant - at the behest of our cab driver - to have a filling dinner in. Little did we know that a chance glance at the wall-hanging of Spiti Valley in the restaurant would entice us so much, that we'd pack our bags within the following couple of weeks and head straight for it - Lahaul and Spiti!
Lahaul-Spiti district is located in Himachal Pradesh. The district can be reached through Lahaul Valley via Manali and Rohtang Pass; or you could reach Spiti Valley via Shimla. Reach Manali and cross the Rohtang Pass and you'd know what 'contrast' means: from the lush green Deodars and Pines of Manali to the rocky and arid terrain of the Lahaul-Spiti region. Although part of the same district, Lahaul valley is very different from Spiti valley; Lahaul is greener of the two valleys - one can find a lone tree erected here and there in comparison with nothing but weeds in Spiti. 
We decided to pay this obscure paradise in Himachal a visit because we wanted to escape, even if for a week, the poignancies of our lives and forget our woes by losing ourselves in the hardships of other peoples' realities. And boy, we were not in for disappointment!
Life, at an average elevation of 4270 meters above sea level, is harder than you could imagine; the cold is so biting, that it desensitizes your mind off all worries. 
It is incredulous how the natives believe that the tourists visiting the region are a bunch of morons to have travelled thus far only to see arid mountains.
Visit Lahaul & Spiti not just for the mind-numbing beauty of the place, but also for discovering  a new level of spirituality and a parallel universe where people wake up to welcome another day of hardships with open arms and with smiles on their faces. 
Visit Lahaul & Spiti to rise above your miseries and belittle them.

The Rohtang Pass connects the Kullu valley with the Lahaul and Spiti district. This pass is open to public only from May till mid November. Coming from Manali side, crossing the pass and descending into the Lahaul-Spiti region, you'd witness a change that knows no bounds - from all hues of green in the Kullu Valley to the barren and brutal browns of Lahaul.
Photo of Rohtang La, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Rohtang La, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Rohtang La, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Khoksar is a small town on the way to Keylong, the administrative centre of the Lahaul Spiti district, in Lahaul valley. It is the one of the first habitable villages you arrive at in the Lahaul valley after descending the Rohtang Pass. This village houses a cluster of 'dhabas' and is always brimming with hungry tourists yearning for a filling meal in the freezing weather. There is nothing more to look forward to here other than re-filling your food-starved tummies in the midst of picturesque mountains.
Photo of Khoksar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Khoksar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Khoksar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Khoksar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Sissu, a town in Lahaul valley, is located on the bank of river Chandra. It has a beautiful waterfall which attracts many tourists to pitch their tents right next to it or cycle on the winding roads in the area. Don't forget to catch a glimpse of one end of the proposed tunnel connecting Kullu valley and Lahaul valley.
Photo of Sissu, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Sissu, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
On the way to Keylong, stop-by and behold the confluence of rivers Chandra and Bhaga which merge to form Chandrabhaga - also known as the mighty Chenab - at Tandi.
Photo of Tandi, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Tandi, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Tandi, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Keylong, the administrative capital of Lahaul & Spiti, in the Lahaul district is perhaps one of the most self sufficient of all towns of Lahaul valley with a hospital of its own and a petrol pump, not far away, at Tandi. Kardang Monastery, Shaspur Monastery and Tayul Monastery add a historical feather to the cap of this mesmerizingly beautiful town. We gave Trilokinath Temple a miss because we were short of time and we wanted to strut down the streets of Keylong to interact with the locals; a middle-aged lady was kind enough to invite us to her home and chat with us over a cup of scrumptious butter tea. Visit the 300-year-old heritage palace in Kolong village built with 108 rooms spanning four storeys; the current heiress of the abandoned palace is said to be living in Ladakh.
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Almost perennially covered with snow, the Baralacha Pass is at an unearthly altitude of 4850 meters above sea level. It is just a few kilometers above Sooraj Tal, which is the origin of river Bhaga that meanders through the Lahaul valley. Visit Deepak Tal, a small lake, enroute to Sooraj Tal and Baralacha La from Keylong.
Photo of Baralacha La Pass, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Baralacha La Pass, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Baralacha La Pass, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Baralacha La Pass, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Tread the treacherous road -- the road from Batal, the last inhabited point before Chandratal is nothing but lethal -- that leads to the Chandratal Lake and absorb the splendid view whilst taking deep breaths! Do remember to keep your jaw from falling off and hitting the ground! The view of the river bed and the glaciers on the far off mountains is breath-taking. Meditate, take a walk around the lake or pitch your tent - the lake is a spectacle to behold! If you have days in hand, then a trek from Sooraj Tal to Chandra Tal - or the other way round - could give you the adrenaline boost you had always been anticipating.
Photo of Chandra Taal, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Chandra Taal, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Chandra Taal, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Chandra Taal, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
The Kunzum Pass connects the Lahaul Valley with the Spiti Valley and is a gateway to Spiti Valley for tourists coming from Manali. Visit the Kunzum temple and seek blessings before commencing the remainder of your journey. The pass is also a trekkers' paradise and leads to Chandratal Lake along a nine-kilometer-long route.
Photo of Kunzum Pass, Dhar Thachakarpo, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Kunzum Pass, Dhar Thachakarpo, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Kunzum Pass, Dhar Thachakarpo, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Kunzum Pass, Dhar Thachakarpo, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Kaza, the subdivisional headquarter of Spiti Valley, bestows on you a melange of beauty and spirituality with its Tangyud and Key Monasteries amid its dry and crumbling mountains. The Kibber Monestary in the Kibber village is not far away either – a settlement on the top of a lime stone rock makes it one of the highest inhabited villages connected by a motorable road. Visit the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary and see if you are lucky enough to spot a nimble ibex or the hunter-on-the-prowl snow leopard. If you happen to stop by for a refill at the Kaza petrol pump, do notice the board that reads : ‘Welcome at the world’s highest altitude retail outlet.’
Photo of Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Pin Valley is known as the land of the snow leopard and the ibex; while spotting the ibex would still be possible, consider yourself really lucky -- if you’re not scared for your life -- if you chance upon a snow leopard! The valley also offers the Pin Parvati Pass trek which mustn’t be undertaken by the meek for the weather is always unforgiving in the region. Seek blessings at the Kungri Monastery in the valley. The place is also famous for the sword dance performed by the Buzhen monks showcasing their prowess with the weapon.
Photo of Pin Valley National Park, Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
The town of Tabo in Spiti valley has the Tabo monastery to its credit. Said to be over a thousand years old, the Monastery is also known as the Ajanta of the Himalayas because of the magnificent frescoes and murals that adorn its walls. The Tabo village is overlooked upon by caves artificially carved in a cliff located across from the monastery. The view of the village and the monastery from the caves is awe-inspiring. Visit Gue, about 40 kilometers away from Tabo, to be stupefied by the 500-year-old mummy of a monk, preserved in sitting position; the mummy, discovered by the villagers when an earthquake struck the region, still has its hair intact and is in mint condition for its age.
Photo of Tabo, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Tabo, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Tabo, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Tabo, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Tabo, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Take a cab, trek or hitchhike and bask in the glory of the available options on your way up to the Dhankar Monastery --built in a fortress-like fashion, atop a cliff overlooking the Dhankar village-- because, once there, the only way to soothe your eyes at the sight of the Dhankar Lake is to slog all the way up further on your feet! And yes, despite more than an hour of uphill trek from the Dhankar Monastery, we couldn’t find our way up to the lake as we only kept meeting dead-ends!
Photo of Dhankar Monastery, Sichling-Dhankhar Gompa, Dhankhar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Dhankar Monastery, Sichling-Dhankhar Gompa, Dhankhar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Dhankar Monastery, Sichling-Dhankhar Gompa, Dhankhar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
Photo of Dhankar Monastery, Sichling-Dhankhar Gompa, Dhankhar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Jasreet Chawla
2 Comment(s)
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Woah... Nice. The pics are amazing. There are so many places i missed. I need to go back
Mon 03 06 17, 10:22 · Reply · Report
Hey hii Jasreet . I am planning to visit Lahaul-Spiti during April with my family and a few close relatives. We are planning to start from Shimla and go uptill Chitkul . Do you have any idea whether they have adequate no of hotels in Narkanda/Kufri,Sarahaan,Rakcham,Chitkul, Sangla ? And please do mention about the rate of the hotels / night.
Wed 01 04 17, 05:44 · Reply (1) · Report
Hi Souvik. I took the delhi-manali-lahaul-baralacha-lahaul-chandratal-kaza route for my trip. Im afraid im not even remotely acquainted with the route that enters the lahaul spiti region through simla..kufri should definitely have a myriad of hotels for you to choose from, from my knowledge..about the rest of the places that youve mentioned, i dont have much of an idea..
Wed 01 04 17, 08:39 · Report