The Enchanting Spiti Valley


By: Isha Sharma

The name ‘Spiti’ means “the middle land” i.e. the land between India and Tibet. It is almost a hill desert and is much less developed. The valley witnesses heavy snowfall for almost eight to nine months of the year. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood. But farm yield is scanty due to shortage of irrigation facilities and prolonged snow-covered winters.

Photo Credits: Eshank Sehgal

Situated to the east of Kullu in the extreme north-east corner and is bounded on the other three sides by Ladakh, Tibet and Kinnaur. It has an average height of 4000 meters.

The sub-divisional headquarters is Kaza, which is situated along the Spiti River at an elevation of about 3,800 meters above mean sea level. The area is quite prone to earthquakes.

There are two ways to reach Spiti, one is from Manali across the Rohtang Pass and the other one goes north from Shimla through the district of Kinnaur.

Photo Credits: Eshank Sehgal

Spiti is one of the important centers of Buddhism in Himachal Pradesh. The valley can be spotted by many Buddhist Monasteries. Among which Tabo and Kee Monastery are famous.

Tabo Monastery is forty-six kilometers from Kaza and was established in 996 A.D. Tabo Monastery complex or Chogskhar consists of nine temples and several chortens (memorials) with prayers inscribed on stone. It is considered to be the oldest Buddhist monastery which is continuously working since its establishment.

Kee monastery is largest in Spiti with about 300 resident lamas. The monastery is built in classical Tibetan style. One room in the complex has been reserved for Dalai Lama. Its 16th century gompa has excellent collection of old thangkas, manuscripts, weapons and musical instruments. The prayer hall of monastery has richly painted walls and images of the Buddha.

Kee Monastery

Chandrataal is a popular destination for trekkers and campers. Chandrataal means ‘the lake of the moon’. Situated at an altitude of about 4,300 meters and with a circumference of 2.5 kilometers.

A surprising thing to be noticed here is that there is no visible source of lake but there is a visible outlet, which means that water to this lake comes from underground. This place also attracts large number of devotees, as it is believed that according to legend, this is the very location from where god Indra’s chariot picked up Yudhishthira (the eldest of the Pandava brothers).

Chandrataal lake

As mentioned earlier Kaza is the headquarters of Spiti. It has the largest township and is the commercial center with all modern facilities. It is well-known for its colorful festivals and ancient Sakya Tangyud Monastery. Kaza is ideal base camp for trekking, mountaineering and tours directed to other parts of the valley.

Set on the summit of limestone rock, Kibber is another popular among adventure lovers. Located few kilometers away from Kaza, Kibber is pleasant village with plenty of cultivation. Barley and peas are the main crops grown here.

A noteworthy feature about the architecture is the use of stone instead of mud or adobe brick. It is the highest village in the world connected to a motorable road. It contains a monastery and the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary. Presence of large amount of fossils is another remarkable thing about this place.

Photo Credits: Eshank Sehgal

Spiti is famous for its carpets, pure wool shawls, ready made woolen garments made of merino wool, unique items like bedroom slippers which are made of grass, Chinese ceramic utensils, stone gems and local jewellery.

Photo Credits: Eshank Sehgal

Most of the mountains of Spiti are waiting for the footsteps of climbers and trekkers. Spiti, thus, invites to unveil its serene beauty. Best time to visit Spiti is during summer from May to October.

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