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CLOTHING

Temperatures can change rapidly depending on the place, time and weather, hence dressing in layers is advised. It will allow you to add/subtract layers as and when needed. Apart from your regular clothes, also carry sweater, gloves, cap, scarf (to protect head and ears from cold winds) and warm inners.

MEDICINES

Carry Diamox if you aren’t allergic to sulfur drugs as it helps reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. Additionally, carry general medicines for headache, fever, stomach ache, cold and cough syrup. Also prescribed medicines you are on.

PERSONAL ESSENTIALS

Sunscreen lotion: UV rays at high altitude can be quite damaging to the skin, even during the harshest of winter, so don’t forget to carry a good quality sunscreen lotion
UV sunglasses: Having decent quality UV sunglasses is quite essential since mountain passes have a lot of snow cover and sunlight reflecting from the snow can be even harsher.
Lip balm: Dry and cold weather will make your lips dry, which can get quite painful due to cracking and skin coming off, so make sure to carry a lip balm or Vaseline.
Mustard oil: Mustard oil can be used for lubricating insides of nostrils, which can become quite dry and painful due to dry and cold winds.
Do keep other essentials like soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, towel, toilet paper and face wash as well for emergencies.

FOOD ITEMS

Water is the most essential thing in high altitudes, since dehydration can further complicate health issues at such a high altitude. So make sure you are carrying at least couple of liter of water per person all the time and drinking at regular intervals. We always advice to keep a big water bottle with you and keep refilling it. Avoid buying small mineral water bottles in hills and help reduce the plastic waste.
Glucose: Carrying water mixed with Glucon C/D is a good idea while traveling at high altitude, as it provides instant energy on the move, when your appetite is likely to be reduced due to AMS and at the same time, doesn’t act as a diuretic, like most caffeinated energy drinks. Carry couple of small packs with you, which you can mix in water, at the beginning of the day.
Energy bars, chocolates, biscuits and nuts: Carrying chocolates, biscuits and dry fruits is a good idea, as these provide instant energy and easy snack and don’t take up too much space. Those who love spicy food, make sure to carry pickle or sauce, since Spiti food is a bit bland.

DOCUMENT AND IDs

It is essential to carry at least one government issued identity card and couple of photocopies of it, since it is needed at certain places to register at the check post. You should also carry your medical insurance card (if you have one) and print out of list of important contacts (useful in case your mobile phone stops working).

MONEY

Carry enough cash you need, to avoid wasting time withdrawing cash. There are very limited ATMs beyond Shimla.

BATTERIES AND MEMORY CARDS

Spare camera batteries – Carry at least one spare set of batteries required for your camera, since in cold environment, batteries can die quickly. Battery bank – If you are an avid smart phone user then make sure you are carrying car charger or a power bank with at least 4000-5000mAH capacity to keep your mobile phone running throughout the day. Enough memory cards to last you the entire trip.

HAPPY TRIPPING!

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Journey to Spiti Valley is amazingly beautiful – high rocky hills kissing the sky, water streams snaking through the mountains, fluttering flags in serene monasteries and tiny picturesque villages popping-up every now and then. Every traveler must visit Spiti at least once in his lifetime. But it’s not an easy journey and requires lots of planning. Below are some pointers that will help you plan your trip to Spiti:

SCHEDULE AROUND:

Try and plan your trip around local festivals. There is no better way to experience culture of a place than to be a part of the festivities. Below is the calendar of fair and festivals in the region:
Month Place Fair/Festival Name
Jan/Feb Pattan Valley Khogla
Jan/Feb Lahaul Valley Halda
Febuary Lahaul Fagli
Febuary Bhaga Valley (Lahaul) Gothsi (Gochi)
June/July Shashur, Kardang, Gemur, Kyi Gompas in Lahal & Spiti Tsheshu Fair
August Kaza (Spiti) Ladarcha Fair
August Udaipur (Lahaul) Pauri Fair
August Keylong (Lahaul) Tribal Fair


STAY AT:

Stay at home-stays in villages like Langza, Kibber and Mudh. This will give you an opportunity to support the locals and also to understand and feel the culture of the place. The home-stay will be a basic accommodation but hospitality is not about sterile environments, but welcoming ones. Home made traditional meals will be accompanied by great conversations. And no surprise if you get to know some local secrets as well while chatting.
You can comfortably choose to stay in Kaza (that have all the facilities and comforts) and do day trips to these villages but if you have made an effort to do this treacherous journey and reach these remote villages, as a responsible traveler you must live with them for a night to understand the life of high Himalayas and support the villagers in whatever possible way.

MUST DOS –

Below are the experiences you must not miss during your visit to Spiti:

1. Post a letter/ post-card from the highest post office of the world, Hikkim.

Hikkim, at an altitude of 14567ft houses world’s highest post office. If you are in Spiti, do not forget to write a postcard to your friends and family from Hikkim post office. You might have to walk down a small hill and look for the post office painted in white, in a group of houses made of mud and stones.

2. Take a small walk around Langza, you might stumble upon some sea fossils.

There’s a belt in Spiti Valley in and around Langza that is rich in fossils of Marine animals and plants which were here millions of years ago when Spiti was submerged under the Tethys Sea. When in Spiti, do take a walk around Langza to find sea fossils that you might get buried under big rocks.

3. Trek to Dhankar lake. Its an easy trek of 2hrs. 

There is a beautiful lake at Dhankar which is located on the other side of the mountain that you can reach after a steep trek of around 3.5 km.  The lake is beautiful with crystal clear water surrounded by vast open spaces. Beyond the valley are snow-capped peaks of Himalayas and at some points in a day you get a perfect reflection of these peaks in the lake.

4. Visit Pin Valley National Park 

Spread over an area of approx 9700 sq km, Pin Valley national park is  a natural habitat for a number of endangered animals including the Tibetan gazelle, snow leopard and Siberian ibex and some rare birds like Himalayan snowcock and snow partridge.

 

5. Spend night in a camp at Chandratal.

There are tents pitched literally in the lap of Himalayas, surrounded by snow-covered peaks on all sides. Spending a night here gives you an opportunity to feel like a part of the universe.

6. Have tea served by Lamas at Ki Monastery 

This centuries old gompa is a labyrinth of rooms and corridors and at one time also acted as a fort. It houses valuable Thangkas and offers a panoramic view of the area.  Lama here will welcome you wit a hot cup of herbal tea that helps keep your body warm at high altitude.

7. See mysterious mummy at Giu village.

Giu is a small village situated between the towns of Sumdo and Tabo. A steep 8 km climb on a road that branches from NH-22 takes you to the village. There is Mummy that is said to be found by workers of Indo Tibetan border police working to construct a border surveillance post near Sumdoh. The mummy is over 500 years old and has dried up through a natural process. Its eyes, teeth and hair are still intact.

8. Drive through Kunzum Pass

Kunzum pass connects Kullu valley and Lahaul valley to Spiti valley. It offers an incredible 360-degree view of Bara- Shigri Glacier – the second longest glacier in the world, a jaw-dropping vista of Chandrabhaga Range and a spectacular view of the Spiti valley. There are 2 ways of reaching Spiti, via Shimla and via Manali. Plan your visit so that you complete the whole circuit. Go via Shimla and return via Manali crossing Kunzum pass.

9. Get yourself clicked with simple yet cheerful locals

 Spiti is not just about the place but also about people. Mingle with these innocent friendly people and you will understand how simple life can be even in the harsh conditions.

10. River rafting on Pin and Spiti Rivers

 The trilling ride on the raft gives you an opportunity to pass through the vast landscapes, high ridges, glaciers, pastures and mountain tops that you miss while going on road.

 

If you wish to join other adventurous souls to accompany you on this lifetime journey join Spiti Sojourn with us.

HAPPY TRIPPING!
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On this road trip from Delhi to Spiti Valley I succumbed to the magic of the Himalayas. Driving on those rough terrains through mighty mountains at days and looking at the innumerable stars at pitch dark nights has made for some of the best experiences of my life and has left me wondering about my tiny existence in this whole gamut of Universe. The beauty of these gigantic mountains, the immensity of the lands on which they look down, the simplicity of the people living here all worked on my mind like a spell.

Journey to the Spiti Valley – a desert mountain valley located high in the Himalayas, north-east of Himachal Pradesh, India, is the most beautiful drive I’ve done so far. It isn’t a smooth drive – dangerous roads, no petrol pumps for hundreds of kilometers, low oxygen levels due to the high altitude – but it surely is worth all the effort. You get to drive through lush green pine forests along the rivers Baspa and Satluj and experience the tribal life in remote villages of Kinnaur valley and while driving towards Spiti you’ll be amazed to see how the scenery changes dramatically from green pines to rocky mountains and how the smooth drives gets tough on the rocky terrains of high Himalayas. If you are lucky as we were to travel with geologist friends, they will explain you how these mountains might have been some thousand million years ago and how they have evolved to the present state. This valley is one of the best geological sites in the world as per them. You would be surprised to see how villages will suddenly emerge as you drive farther from just nowhere and the simple people of this region will make you wonder how they can be so contented living in such adverse conditions. The whole drive offers such vast and mesmerizing landscapes that you don’t want to close your eyes even to blink. Quaint old monasteries, prayer flags fluttering in the wind and monks in their ochre robes, add to the mystic charm of Spiti. The scenic mountain villages perched on mountain crests, pristine rivers, the vast landscapes and harsh conditions are all a part of this adventurous Himalayan Journey.

It has been said that everyone who visits Spiti begins a new life.  Spiti plays an interesting, very different hand, luring you to its untouched surreal beauty and offering an introduction to the simpler ways of life– I can never forget my interaction with locals at Ribba, Hansa and Giu.  There are some extraordinary stories too – of 500 years old mystical mummy that was discovered some 25 years back, of a peak changing colors every hour of the day, of painted caves where monks stayed some hundred years ago. Many-a-times I wished that this trip to Himalayas would never end, that I never come back to the city.

Embracing the Mountains with a dash of local life 

An early start ensured we were out of the city in good time (before traffic rush starts) and have our lunch in midst of pine trees. Air got cooler and smelled of the green pines post Kalka. It was fun to play hide and seek with a hill train snaking up the Shivalik foot hills through zig-zag narrow gauge and tunnels. There are 103 tunnels on the route of this hill train that runs from Kalka to Simla. After a delicious lunch at Dharampur, bypassing Simla we reached Matiyana, a quiet, scenic town surrounded by apple orchards. The final leg of the drive from Simla to Matiyana through the dense pine forests and apple orchards is awe-inspiring.

Matiyana is a quiet, relaxed small village with a breathtakingly beautiful view of Shivalik ranges. It is known for the quality apples (Golden Spur) that are grown here. Our friend Sunil and his family gave us a warm welcome. A beautiful traditional low-floor seating arrangement was waiting for us. The people here are simple and truly signify this old saying in India “Atithi devo bhava” meaning “Guest is God”. We were taken care of like their own family members. Local food was generously served in kitchen-cum-dining hall. It was a big hall with angithi (fireplace) in the middle and working shelf on one side and seating arrangement (on floor) on other three sides.

Experiencing Kinnauri Culture at Kalpa  

It was one of most picturesque drives of the trip. Driving along the ferocious Sutlej, we reached Recong peo from where we were to get the inner line permits for our foreigner friends. By the time formalities were being done we had our lunch at peo market. It took little more time than we expected. Our destination for the day was Kalpa, some 12 kms from Peo.

Our tired souls got elated looking at the view from hotel at Kalpa. Looming in front was an impressive view of the Kinnaur Kailash ranges that includes Kinnaur Kailash (elevation- 6349m) and Jorkanden (elevation- 6473m) peaks. Kalpa, at 2,960 m elevation is a beautiful town famous for production of high quality apples and Chilgozas (Pine nuts). It’s interesting to see how Hinduism and Buddhism have undergone a religious mixing here, along with some indigenous shamanistic practices. It was clearly evident in the architecture of Narayan-Nagini temple and Hu-Bu-Lan-Kar Monastery. Walking along the narrow lanes of this village we got a good glimpse of Kinnauri culture. The women dress in Dohru which comprises of Chhalni (skirt), Gachi (waist belt), Pattu (woolen stole), Topi (cap) and men wear Suthan (bottom), Choba (woolen shirt), Gachi (waist belt) and Topi (cap).  Kinner houses are made of wood and have storerooms for keeping dried fruits and separate wooden storage structures called kathar for grains.

We woke up to a mesmerizing morning in the lap of Himalayas. It seemed the mighty peaks were guarding this silent sleepy village and now when day is breaking its changing colors seem to be signaling the villagers to wake up. As the bright day gradually took over the dark night snow covered mysterious hills changed its colors from black to grey to silver to white to golden. We couldn’t take our eyes off the spectacular view.

Tasting local brew ‘Angoori’ at Ribba

 Well known for its grape vineyards, plum orchards and the local brews made from local variety of grapes called Rokh Dakhan in local dialect, Ribba is a picturesque village travelers hardly know about. We were fortunate to have found Dharam Kumar Negi who took us around the wonderful trails through the fruit orchards to visit Kasuraj ji Temple where Hindu gods and Buddhist deities are worshiped side by side. He took us to his house as well for tasting Angoori. He was quite reluctant in selling as they want to stock it for those 6 months when the whole village is covered with deep snow and cut off from the whole world.

In contrast to the romanticism we left behind at Rakchham, the stretch from Ribba to Nako is harsh. There are huge Rocky Mountains staring at you, no habitation for miles after miles and tough terrain seem to be shouting to remain alert every moment. The elevation, blind turns and low oxygen level was making it difficult to remain in high spirits. While most of us were busy fighting fear, we were surprised to see our geologist friends, Sam and Monamie so excited over something. Those were the white marks (we later learnt that these are called volcanic dikes) on the rocks that had attracted their attention and now with full vigor were discussing how they might have formed in this region.

Tete-a-tete with traditional architecture at gorgeous little village Nako

Passing through Khab which is hardly 13 km from Shipki La border to Tibet, we reached Nako, situated in Hangrang Valley. It lies in the restricted zone along the border and therefore requires an Inner Line Permit to travel through.

A walk around the village absorbing the traditional atmosphere transported us back to ancient times. Cheerful villagers in their colorful woolen dress would greet you with broad smile, talk to you and might as well invite you to have meal with them. Mani walls which meander through the village and Chortens as well as vernacular architecture with richly carved timber verandas characterize the overall appearance of the village. The existence of lake adds to the beauty. From behind the lake we climbed uphill towards chortens. It was an ideal place to get an amazing view of this tiny village.

Sun seemed to be in happy mood and chose to treat our eyes with a breathtakingly beautiful view. Its golden rays touched snow kissed silver peaks one by one turning them golden. And what pleasure it was to witness gradual conversion of this beautiful evening into a gorgeous starry night!

 

Celebrating life with monks at ancient monastic complex at Tabo 

Further on the trail is Tabo situated at an altitude of 3500m on the north bank of the Spiti River. Famous for the ancient monastic complex that preserves some of the ancient paintings and stucco images that date back to 11th century, the complex looked very different from what comes to mind if we think of a monastery. We roamed around the complex trying to absorb the serenity of the place. Prayer flags fluttering in the wind and glowing jovial faces of kids, youth and old alike, we felt as if we have reached some different world altogether where people knew no sorrow. Smile was a part and parcel of everyone’s appearance.

On the cliff-face above the complex were a series of caves that at some point were the dwellings of monks. Traces of painting can be seen in these caves as well.  Tabo has some nicely maintained home stays that serve authentic Tibetan food.

 

Experiencing quietude at Kye and Dhankar Monastery, Kaza

Located at an altitude of 4000mt. on the left bank of Spiti River, Kaza is the largest township in the area. It being centrally located, we made it our base for Kye monastery, Kibber and Dhankar. Around 12kms north of Kaza is Kye monastery built in 1000AD that is one of the main training centers for Lamas in the region. There are narrow corridors, low rooms, dark passages, difficult staircases and small doors that lead to prayer rooms in the monastery. It has Thangkas (painted or embroided Tibetian banners), valuable manuscripts, stucco images and unique wind instruments that are put to use in summers even today. Standing on the roof top of Kye monastery I couldn’t stop myself from wondering how life is so different here. Far from the complexities of city life, living in this quietude is a distant dream for most of us.  Around 11kms farther is this village Kibbar that is amongst the highest villages in the world (4270mt.) Located in such a spectacular location surrounded by peaks this village is definitely worth a visit.

We had already visited many monasteries in the region and expected something similar at Dhankar as well. But I was totally taken aback by the beauty of this place. The monastery is dramatically located on a cliff overlooking the confluence of Spiti and Pin Rivers. One the other side of the mountain was Dhankar Lake. A well defined steep trail of 5kms will take you there. It is something not to be missed. There are some spots on this trek from where one gets amazing view of Dhankar village. It took us around an hour-and-a-half to reach the lake. Sun was about to set when we reached the place. It was a cloudy day and somewhat dark. I still have a clear picture of the magic moment we witnessed there – Dark sky with black clouds, cool breeze coming from north and that time of the day when slowly darkness takes over the day. When we were about to leave the place a magic happened – Golden light trickling from behind the clouds lit up the lake turning it from dark grey to deep blue with golden light spread all over the place… as if some fairy has waived her magic wand. The serenity of the place was attracting me to stay back in Dhankar village for some more time but my engagements in city pulled me back.

Experience serene nature at Chandratal

Driving through some magnificent landscapes, we reached Kunzum pass. The road from here till the camps are bumpy and can be very tiring but the mere sight of Chandratal is a reward enough for all the hard work. Situated at an altitude of around 4,300 mt in the Himalayas, this placid lake took my breath away… silent valley, still blue water and clear reflection of snow covered peaks. We set our tents on the vast meadows on the bank of the lake. It was one the most memorable nights of my life sitting on the bank looking at reflection of stars on the divine lake. We woke up to a beautiful fresh morning.

Our tired city souls were now fully refreshed to start our journey back to the city.

 

————————————————————–THE TRIP GUIDE———————————————–

Route: Delhi – Simla – Rampur – Chitkul – Sangla – Kalpa – Nako – Tabo – Kaza – Key – Kibar – Kaza – Dhankar – Chandratal – Manali – Delhi

Duration: 10days

Best Season: June –October

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Planning a trip to Spiti? Join a team of travelers on the group trip SPITI SOJOURN 2017 in July or  send in an inquiry to vinod@indianterrains.com and let the experts customize it for you.

 

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