Spiti Valley is also known popularly as Little Tibet and is situated in the part of Himalayas located in Himachal Pradesh. It can be accessed only during the summer season and is basically a remote location. It is a nature lover’s delight given the fact that it is surrounded by glaciers and mountains. You can also see a number of villages nestled high atop mountain crests and several monasteries that have a lot of history in spite of their rather quaint appearance. The streams and rivers here are as clear as crystal. With the many monks dressed in robes and prayer flags swaying in the wind, you can be forgiven for thinking that you are somewhere in Tibet.
Origin of the name
The word Spiti means middle land, which indicates its location between India and China. It was originally known as Piti.
How to get to Spiti
The commonest way to get to Spiti is by cabs or buses that ply to this location from different towns in Himachal Pradesh and other parts of North India. You can first come by rail or bus to Shimla, which is 309 km from Spiti. The railway stations of Jogindher Nagar and Chandigarh are located pretty close by as well. The road that comes through Rohtang Pass is normally closed for 6 months owing to snowfall. You can also take the road via Manali since it is supposed to take the least time.
A historical outlook
Historically speaking, Spiti was located in the kingdom of Western Tibet also known as Nariss Korssum. During the eleventh century, Nimagon, the reigning king, divided it among his three sons. This led to the creation of Spiti and Zanskar as a separate kingdom. The kingdom however paid tributes to Ladakh, Kullu, and Chamba. Soon, the kingdom became part of Ladakh and was ruled by a hereditary wazir called Nono.
After the Ladakh-Tibet War of 1681-83 the kingdom became independent. Soon it was invaded by the Raja of Kullu, Man Singh. Ladakh wrested back control during the eighteenth century with the Nono back to governing the region. It came under the control of East India Company after the Sikhs were defeated in 1846. Till 1940 Spiti was part of Kullu subdivision of Kangra district. However, the Nonos still ruled locally. Lahaul and Spiti became a sub-tehsil in 1941 with a naib-tehsildar taking over the reins from Keylong. This system remained in force till June 1960 when Lahaul and Spiti became a separate district.
Places to visit
Komik – also spelled as Koumik – Village is reputed to be the highest of its kind in the continent and is one that you should not miss.
Lhalung Gompa, also referred to as Golden Temple, is a fantastic creation from the medieval ages.
Udaipur hamlet is well known for Marikula Mata temple, which is an ancient one.
Key Gompa – also spelt as Ki – is at least 1000 years old and is the biggest centre for Buddhist learning in the valley.
Lossar is the first village that you see when you come in through Kunzum La.
Dhankar Gompa used to be the capital of Spiti during the seventeenth century. It is at the tallest location over here. It is around 1000-1200 years old.
Pin Valley National Park has at least 20 species of animals and birds including the famed snow leopard.
Tabo Gompa is also known as the Ajanta of Himalayas and is located at a height of 10,007 feet.
The word Chandratal – also spelt as Chandra Tal, Chandra Taal, and Chander Taal – means Moon Lake. It is a beautiful, yet barren lake, situated at a height of 14100 feet.
Tangyud Gompa is one of the main monasteries and was built probably during the fourteenth century.
Tsuglkang is the assembly hall of Tabo Gompa. Here you will find almost lifelike clay replicas of the 32 bodhisattvas.
Kunzum La is the 4551 metre long pass that separates Spiti from Lahaul. Here you will find a number of stupas.
Ugyen Sangnak Choling Gompa is located at Kungri and is 680 years old. Its new monastery building is large and there are three interesting temples from the Middle Ages.
Dhankar Fort is located at the hilltop overlooking the synonymous monastery. It is basically the ruins of the said historic fort built from mud and bricks.
Bara Shigri Batal acts as the starting point for the trek to Bara Shigri, which is located nearby and is one of the tallest glaciers of Himalaya.
The modern Buddha statue was built over three years from 2002-2005. It overlooks the whole valley and is located in front of a 500-year-old temple.
Dhankar Tso is a small lake, which takes around an hour to walk from Dhankar Village. You can see the Manirang peaks from here.
Ser-Khang Temple is well known for the exquisite paintings of goddess Usnishavijaya and green Tara.
The new monastery at Dhankar is located 800 metres from the older gompa and was built in 2009.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit is the period from May to October. There are not many accommodation options over here. You can get guesthouses – private and governmental – at the following locations:
You will get homestays at the following locations:
As far as food is concerned you will get both Indian and Tibetan dishes over here. There are plenty of activities that can be done over here like trekking, river rafting, and shopping. You should also visit the Ladarcha Fair, which is held in July each year. Apart from that, you can visit Kibber, Kaza, and Lahaul, which are close by from Spiti.