Spiti Valley Travel Guide
A moonscape of small villages and high terrains that stretch far and wide, Spiti Valley is a version of paradise on Earth for ardent travellers. It is an annual pilgrimage; for others, it is that unspoken place that they have to visit at least once in their lifetime. Whatever your reasons are for travelling to Spiti Valley, this guide will help you plan your trip.
Right from the places to visit in Spiti Valley, when to see and what all permits you need, everything is rounded up in this one blog. After all, when exploring the ‘Mini Leh-Ladakh ’, situated between India and Tibet, preparation is of utmost importance. Especially in a world where travel is increasingly becoming difficult thanks to a raging pandemic.
1. Places to visit in Spiti Valley
With beautiful villages scattered all around the valley and the Spiti river running between some of them, this place feels almost surreal. When you are not exploring all of this untouched beauty, stop at a place and observe the night sky that feels like the galaxy is putting up an exclusive show just for you.
Excited? Mark these places as the must-visit destinations when you visit Spiti Valley.
The gateway to Lahaul and Spiti Valleys, Kunzum Pass or Kunzum La, is the highest motorable road in India at 4551 meters. While this stretch is a popular destination among bikers, it is the fluttering flags surrounding the Kunzum temple that add allure to its beauty. Make a stop at this temple for the blessings of Goddess Durga. Soak in the view of the snow-clad Chandra Bhaga ranges and the many glaciers that surround this Pass. The Bara-Sigri glacier is another beautiful and magnificent glacier that is worth the attention of avid photographers. Once you have explored this beautiful Pass, proceed to Chandratal Lake, located at a distance of just 7 km.
Perched at an elevation of 14,100 feet above sea level, Chandratal Lake is a crescent-moon shaped basin that reflects serenity and the peaceful vibes of this valley. Accessible only during June, July, August and September, it remains frozen for the remaining months of the year. Thus, it makes for an ideal stopover on your backpacking, biking or leisure trips in the valley in the summer and monsoon months.
While the lake is picturesque and scenic of its own accord, the mountain ranges accentuate its beauty. Also, the colour of the water in the lake changes throughout the day. Thus, if a time-lapse is on your mind, this is the best place to film one.
Suraj Tal Lake
Located at an elevation of 4950 meters above sea level, this is the third-highest lake globally and makes for a beautiful scenic spot when you explore Spiti Valley. The lake’s name is derived from the Hindi language, and it means ‘the lake of the sun god’, with legends even saying that a dip in this lake might absolve one of their sins.
The lake shines in a brilliant emerald green colour as it reflects the dense forests and mountain ranges surrounding it. Moreover, it is pretty close to the Barachala Pass, known as the intersection between Lahaul, Zanskar and Spiti Valley. Thus, making it a necessary stopover for people who trek and bike through the valley.
When it comes to exploring the valley’s culture, there is no better place than to start at this beautiful town, located at an elevation of 12,500 feet on the bank of the Spiti river. The city is divided into Old Kaza, known as Kaza Khas and the New Kaza referred to as the Kaza Soma. Both parts offer a glimpse into the rich culture of the valley. While the former gives you a chance to explore King’s palaces, ancient buildings and serene gompas and monasteries, the latter is where all the government headquarters, restaurants and hotels are.
Soak in the valley’s culture by spending time in the monasteries, going on long walks around the town or simply marvelling at the beauty of the mountains surrounding it.
2. When to visit Spiti Valley?
Whether you are planning a Spiti valley trek or want to explore the valley in all its glorious beauty, there are specific months for all of it. Spiti valley is open for travel by road throughout the year. However, when it comes to tourism-related activities, June to September are the ideal months, given the roads from Manali and Shimla might get blocked due to heavy snowfall during other months.
The journey to Spiti also depends on what you are looking for during the trip. If it is snowfall you are seeking, mid-February to March is an excellent time to head to the valley. However, there might be heavy snowfall; thus, plan everything accordingly. The snow starts to melt from April onwards, yet the weather remains cold. However, if you want solitude and wish to avoid the touristy crowds, this is the right time to travel to the valley.
3. What are all permits required?
There are essentially no permits required for citizens of India to explore Spiti Valley. But if you want to travel between Reckong Peo and Kaza, you need what is known as the Inner Line Permit. For foreigners, this is known as the Protected Area Permit. The ILP is also a requisite for people travelling via Manali as one will have to cross Rohtang Pass, where an ILP is a must. For the remaining areas, a government-issued Identity Card is all that Indian citizens need to visit Spiti Valley.
Coming to the Protected Area Permit for the foreign nationals, one needs this beyond Reckong Peo, for places like Kaza, Dhankar and Tabo. At the check-post at Reckong Peo, foreigners will have to submit a photocopy of their permits valid for two weeks of travel only. You can find all the forms and documents related to the license at DM Office in Shimla, Reckong Peo, DC Office in Keylong, ADM Office in Udaipur and Rampur. The process of procuring the permits may take up to three hours; hence plan accordingly. Check the official sites for further details.
4. What and where to eat?
No trip is complete without a thorough exploration of the local culinary fare. And if you are someone who loves this activity and visits places for its food, Spiti has quite a few pleasant surprises. Due to the scarcity of vegetation, the locals cook and enjoy non-vegetarian dishes like mutton, chicken , yak and lamb. And if you are looking for seafood, the river provides succulent freshwater fishes for meals.
When it comes to the food in Spiti Valley, all of it is organic, and you get the experience of ‘farm-to-fork right here. Even when you opt for hotels or homestays, some of the famous dishes you must try when you are in Spiti are thukpa, siddu, trout curry, pahadi chicken, bhey, dhaam, chhaa gosht, and others. Wash it all down with a glass of these famous beverages chhang and arak, butter tea, chaza and snowmelt.
5. Where to stay?
Depending on the type of adventure you plan to have, you can either stay in a hotel, homestay or camp it out. If you are on a shoe-string budget, the PWD rest houses and monastery guest houses are perfect. Not only are they reasonably priced but spacious and clean as well, making your entire journey smooth, hygienic and safe.
There are plenty of choices like Hotel Spiti Sarai, Lara Homestay, Langza, Miklam Homestay in Kaza, among others, for people who wish to stay in hotels and homestays. Check out the ones that fit your budget and requirement before you chart out your itinerary.
A journey to Spiti Valley is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and that is the reason why it is on so many people’s bucket list. Ensure you plan everything properly and check with all the official sites whether travel is safe and recommended right now amid this pandemic. f you would like to make the most of it, then digibank Travel Now has attractive packages and offers to make weekend trip perfect.