Surrounded by the Kullu Valley in the south, Ladakh in the north and Tibet in the east, the twin valleys of Lahaul and Spiti is a region of nature at its wildest. These valleys encompass glaciers, high ridges, broad valleys, pastures and has a minimum elevation exceeding 3000m. This area is more of a high altitude cold desert dotted with famous monasteries, villages like little green oasis in a stark, brown and dry landscape, miles of rolling pastures, 6000m peaks and swollen rivers which turn into mere trickles in winter.
Day 01: Delhi to Manali (2050m) 10-11 hrs
An early morning drive in a comfortable car to Manali (570 kms; 12 hours). Manali is a picturesque hill town at the head of the Kullu valley. Overnight hotel.
Day 02: At Manali
Manali is a small little hill station bustling with tourists. We start the day early with a drive on the left bank of the Beas to the village of Naggar, which is famous for the Russian artist Roerich’s gallery. Naggar also has a famous castle and the views around the area are spectacular. We come back to Manali and drive to Solang, which is the paragliding and skiing zone of the area. Overnight hotel.
Day 03: Manali to Kaza (3686m) 8-10 hrs
Today is an early start. we drive over the Rohtang pass (separating Kullu from the Lahaul valley), and descend into the valley of the Chandra river and continue past Chhattru, Batal and over the Kunzum la (pass /4551 mts), which divides Lahaul and Spiti. We spend some time taking in fabulous views of the Chandrabhaga range of mountains, visit the Buddhist shrine and get into our waiting jeeps, to reach Kaza by evening (210 kms; 8-10 hours). Overnight at hotel/guesthouse.
Day 04: Kaza — Day S/S trip to Kye, Kibber and Tashigang
Today we travel to the highlands of the left bank plateau for altitude acclimatization and return to Kaza for overnight stay. We visit the Kye village (about a ½ hour drive) and the Kye gompa, the largest monastery in Spiti. We drive upto Kibber village (another ½ hour drive away), which at 14,000 feet above sea level, is the road head for the trade route into Ladakh over the Parang La. We continue to the village of Gette and Tashigang (about 1 hour drive), high up in the mountains – this is the area where the famous Spiti horses are bred for trade with the nomadic changpas of Ladakh in exchange for the valuable Pashmina wool. If time permits, on return we could walk down a spectacular steep downhill trail to Kye gompa, where our jeeps pick us up for the drive back to the hotel/guesthouse. The evening can be spent roaming the Kaza market where one may find interesting local handicrafts. Overnight at Hotel/guesthouse.
Day 05: Kaza to Komik (4513m)
After breakfast, we drive to Langza village (1-1.5 hours), located in a large high mountain meadow with a beautiful mountain, Chau Chau Kang Nilda, towering above this village. Here we find evidence of the Tethys sea before the Indian mainland collided with the Tibetan plateau and formed the Himalayas, which are still rising today. Sea fossils can be found a short trek (1/2-1 hour) away from the village. Langza village also has a unique temple which is regarded as the headquarters of all the Gods and Goddesses of the region. On numerous occasions the Gods are invoked by the villagers to pass judgments on unresolved issues. From here we visit the ruins of an ancient monastery deserted a few decades ago, close to the village of Hikkim (1/2 hour). The monastery has a unique location and the locals have interesting interpretations and legends about its location. Thereafter we continue to Asia’s highest village, Komic where we spend the night in a traditional homestay (1/2 hour). Komic is also adorned by a legendary monastery. The day provides a fascinating insight into the Spiti way of life.
Day 06: Komic to Dhankar (3890m)
Today, we start early (preferably 7 am) and adopt the local mode of transport, yaks. We explore the Trans-Himalayan Deserts and travel into the grazing pastures of the local livestock and wild herbivores (such as the Blue Sheep). This is also the hunting ground for the Tibetan Wolf and Snow Leopard. If lucky, spotting of the Wolf can be possible. We travel to a vantage point from where 18 villages of Spiti are visible (4-5 hours). This absolutely spectacular vantage spot was used in the ancient days as part of a chain of smoke signals to warm the villagers of oncoming enemies. After returning from this spot, we stop at the neighboring village of Demul. Demul is famous for its local brew (arak) and cultural performances. A flavor of both along with the warm hospitality of these mountain folk, gives us a glimpse into Spiti culture. From here we head to Dhankar, the erstwhile capital of Spiti, in our jeeps (2 hours). We spend the night here in homestays.
Day 07: Dhankar to Tabo (3050m)
Dhankar village which was the erstwhile capital of Spiti, also houses an ancient Monastery perched precariously between unique wind eroded structures. Remnants of the Dhankar Fort, which housed the royal family of Spiti, still remain. A visit to the Monastery, Fort and other subsidiary temples leaves one spellbound at the traditional architectural marvels. The Monastery has some interesting wall murals and thankas. An hours trek above Dhankar is a spectacular blue-green lake amidst pink-brown hills. If time permits we can visit the lake. From Dhankar we drive to the neighboring village of Lhalung (1 hour) and visit the Sarkhang ( a local temple ). The temple dates back close to 1000 years and has some interesting structures in the inner Sanctum. Thereafter we drive to Tabo, where we spend the night (2-3 hours). Overnight in Hotel / Monastery Guesthouse.
Day 08: Tabo to Kaza (3686m)
Tabo is famous for its 1004 years old Monastery. In 1996, the Tabo monastery celebrated its thousand years with a Kalachakra ceremony, which was presided by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We spend time exploring the Monastery and the numerous temples at the monastery, before heading to Giu (1 hour). Giu is the furthest and most isolated village of Spiti, lying close to the border of Tibet (China). Giu village is also interesting as the body of an old monk ( a few hundred years old) sitting in meditation still exists intact till date. It is said that the hair and nails of this monk are still growing. After having a look around the village and at this interesting mummy, we head back to Kaza, where we spend the night. Overnight at Hotel/ Guesthouse.
Day 09: Kaza to Manali (2050m) 10-12 hrs
After an early (7 am) breakfast we drive back to Manali along the same route that we took to reach Kaza.
Enroute we visit Chandra Tal, the lake of the moon goddess. After crossing Kunzam La (4551 mts) we take a short detour to Chandra Tal (4270 mts), time permitting. Chandra Tal is placed between a low ridge and the main Kunzam range with an outlet into the Chandra river.
Day 10: Manali to Delhi
Today, after breakfast, we drive back to Delhi (10-11 hours). Trip ends.