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Himachal Pradesh Lahaul and Spiti

Lahaul and Spiti, the largest district in Himachal Pradesh, is a vast area of high mountains and narrow valleys bounded by Ladakh to the north, Tibet to the east, Kinnaur to the southeast and the Kullu valley to the south. Lahaul is often regarded as a midway point en route to Leh and the Indus valley, but has more to offer travellers. Spiti has only recently been opened to foreign tourists attracted to its isolated Buddhist gompas and villages. Lahaul is also a fascinating area for Buddhist art and culture. The monasteries of Lahaul and Spiti are rich repositories of ancient murals, thankas, wood carvings and golden images of the Padmasambhava. The people are charming, friendly and hospitable with their own traditional dances, ballads, folk tales and legends.

Weather


The altitude varies from over 6,500 m in the high peaks to 2,740 m, where the Chenab River makes its exit from the region. The Lahaul region is at an altitude of 3000-3900 m, the air is much rarified and there are heavy snowstorms between September and May. Nevertheless, since the rains here are very scanty, it is an ideal place for trekkers, especially in the months between June and September. The Spiti valley is connected to Lahaul through the 4500-m Kunzam pass. Beyond the reach of the monsoon, the valley sees little rain in summer, when the sun is strong, and the nights cool.

How to reach

By Air

Delhi is the most convenient city to access the Indian Himalayas, and there are flights to Shimla, Kullu, Leh and Chandigarh. The final 30-minute approach to Leh is regarded as one of the most spectacular flights in the world.

By Train
There are rail connections from Delhi to Shimla, Haridwar (near Rishikesh), Kathgodam (35 km from Naini Tal) and Ramnagar. It is easy to reach Manali from these places and then from Manali to Lahaul and Spiti. Between Kaza and Keylong, there are irregular bus services.

Lahaul and Spiti at a glance :

Lahaul and Spiti at a glance :  
Population32,000
Area12,210 sq km.
Best time to visit LahaulMid June to Late October
Best time to visit SpitiAugust to October

Places of Interest

Suraj Tal , Guru Ghantal Monastery(3020 m) , Tashigang Gompa , Tilasangh Monastery , Kaza , Thang yug Gompa , Ki and Kibber , Tabo Gompa , Shashur Gompa , Dhankar Monastery , Kunzam , Keylong , Tayul Gompa(3900 m) , Khardong Gompa , Pin Valley National Park

Suraj Tal
Below the summit of the Baralacha Pass in the Lahaul division of district Lahaul and Spiti. The Baralacha la connects Manali and Lahaul to Ladakh and the lake which draws a considerable number of visitors - especially in summer - lies by its head. This is the source of the river Bhaga.

Guru Ghantal Monastery(3020 m)
This is on the right bank of Chandra river about 4 kms. above Tandi and is believed to be the oldest Gompa of Lahoul having wooden structure with pyramidal roofs, wood carving, preserving the idols of Padmasambhava & Brajeshwari Devi. On the full moon night in mid-June a festival called "GHANTAL" is celebrated by Lamas & Thakurs together.

Tashigang Gompa
Can be visited by taking diversion from Khab to Namgya and then trekking to the Gompa.

Tilasangh Monastery
1 km. trek from Ka, it is 12 km. short of Yangthang.

Kaza
Kaza is the administrative centre and transport hub of Spiti subdistrict. Kaza's old town, around the new bus stand, is a maza of little shops, hotels and whitewashed houses. The new town across the creek, is a collection of tin-roofed government buildings.

Thang yug Gompa
It is located 13 kms. above Kaza serving western part of central Spiti. Situated in a secluded place in the narrow gauge of Kaza Nallah, it generally has a Lama from Tibet. Above this there is a long plateau which leads to Shilla peak.

Ki and Kibber
Founded in the sixteenth century, the Kyi Gompa is the largest and the oldest monastery in the Spiti Valley, supporting a thriving community of lamas. It is located at a height of about 4116 meters above sea level. Ki, the oldest and largest gompa in Spiti, about 14 kms from Kaza, was built by Ringchen Zangpo and belongs to the Gelukpa order. The gompa is famous for its priceless collection of ancient thangkas, including Tibetan silk thangkas upto 800 years old and frescoes depicting the life of Padmasambhava. The Chaam festival, held in the month of June/July, is a much-awaited event of this gompa.

Kibber or Khyipur is 11 km from Kyi Gompa, and is the highest settlement in the world (4205 meters) with a motorable road and electricity. The Ladarcha festival held here each July attracts Buddhists from all over the world.

Tabo Gompa
Tabo Gompa is one of the most important monasteries in the Tibetan Buddhist world. It is 1,002 years old monastary. It was built in 996 AD. There are nine temples in the complex, at all ground level and dating from the 10th to the 16th century. The main assembly hall of the Tsuglhakhang is surrounded by 33 raised Bodhisattva statues and houses a four-sided statue of Sarvarvid Vairocana, one of the five Dhyani Buddhas.

Shashur Gompa
Shashur Gompa is 3 kms from Keylong. Dedicated to a Zanskari lama, it was built in the 16th century and is of the Gelukpa order. The 5m thangka is famous in the region. An annual festival, held every June or July is renowned for the mask dances performed by the lamas.

Dhankar Monastery
It is situated about 25 kms. east of Kaza and serves eastern part of central Spiti. Dhankar is a big village and erstwhile capital of Spiti King. On top of a hill there is a fort which use to be a prison in olden times. The Monastery has about 100 Lamas and is in position of Buddhist scriptures in Bhoti language. Principal figure is a Statue of "Vairochana" (Dhayan Budha) consisting of 4 complete figures seated back to back. It has relics in the shape of paintings and sculptures.

Kunzam
On the road from Kaza to Keylong is Kunzam, a mountain pass at an attitude of 4551 meters, with a temple of Kunzam Devi. One can also trek from here to the famous and beautiful moon lake Chandratal (4070 m). Asia's biggest glaciers, Bada and Chotta Sigri, can be seen from here. At Gondhla, one can visit the seven-storey castle of the Thakur of Gondhla. The Guru Ganthal gompa, in Tupchiling, 4 km away, is about 800 years old and an important site to visit.

Keylong
Keylong is the headquarter of the Lahaul sub-district. It is located in the fertile valley of Bhaga.

Tayul Gompa(3900 m)
Tayul Gompa is 6 kms. from Keylong and is one of the oldest monasteries of the valley having a huge statue of Guru Padmasamhava about 5m high and houses library of Kangyur having 101 volumes. In Tibetan language Ta-Yul means the chosen place. There is an interesting story behind this.

Khardong Gompa
The Khardong Gompa stands just opposite the Bhaga Valley from Keylong. This 900-year-old monastery belongs to the Drukpa Kagyud order and has some beautiful frescoes.

Pin Valley National Park
Pin Valley National Park is located in Lahaul & Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. The region is a cold desert, which is adjoined to the Great Himalayan National Park in the southwest and Rupi Bhabha sanctuary in the south. The park extends from the latitudes 31°45'-32°11'N and longitudes 77°45'-78°06'E. The Pin Valley, south of the Dhankar gompa, has been declared as a national park

Weather

Conditions are generally cold and dry as the region has always been a cold desert. It receives heavy snowfall in winter, the rainfall being average. Best time to visit the park is from May to October.

How to reach

There are two approach routes to Pin Valley National Park. The first one is via Manali - Rohtang Pass - Kunzum La. This route is open from July to October. The second one is via Shimla - Tapri - Kaza. March to December is the best time to approach the park via this route. The nearest airport is at Bhuntar in Kullu district. Private operators operate flights to Delhi from here; therefore it would be wise to confirm flight schedules etc. in advance. Shimla at a distance of around 443 km is the nearest railhead.

Where to stay

Bunkers have been constructed by the wildlife authorities in the Pin Valley National Park region which is a suitable way to stay there. Camping is the best way to spend night in the park. One can also avail accommodation at Kaza, the nearest town, which is also the administrative centre of Spiti.

Pin Valley National Park at a glance :

Pin Valley National Park at a glance :  
Area 675 sq km
Languages SpokenHindi, English, Himachali
Altitude 3,300 - 6,632 m above sea level
Minimum Temperaturesub zero
Best Time to VisitMay to October
STD Code01702 (Sarahan)