Spiti valley is totally different from where you come. As soon as you enter the valley crossing the Rohtang pass, you will witness a different world, where adventure is the path. Life changing, self determined, often risky adventure, which forces you to have firsthand encounters with a different world. A world you never can imagine. Your mind and body battling with the reality to survive. If you succeed, you will realise the kindness of the nature, It will change you.
Manali is 200 kms away from Kaza and the connecting road is one of the most rough roads in the whole world. The high altitude mountain passes, Rohtang pass at an altitude of 3978m and Kunzum pass at an altitude of 4590m are on this road. This road is closed during the winter from the month of November to May depending on the first snowfall and first monsoon rain. Himachal Pradesh transport buses run from Manali to Kaza when the road is open.
Another road connectivity to Kaza is from Shimla which is open throughout the year. The distance is 400 kms. This road is in pretty good condition and the road is cleared immediately after a storm or landslide, ensuring connectivity between Kaza and Shimla. Himachal Pradesh transport buses operates from Shimla to Kaza.
In Kaza you can get easy accomodation, the BSNL sim works here, other networks haven’t reached here yet. It’s better to book your hotels before you leave your city for Spiti valley. Or else you can try going from one hotel to another and ask for rooms. Good rooms usually charges around 2000 rupees a room for two. There is a Zostel for backpackers. Also you can put up tents here, if you are carrying one. Bikes are available here for rent, if you are traveling by bus.
Key Monastery is one of the largest establishments in the Spiti valley and is one of the largest Buddhist monastery in the world. This High altitude monastery was built in the 10th century and is a great influence here.
This monastery holds numerous handwritten manuscripts, centuries old and tangas of Buddhism. One should visit the Key Monastery while in Spiti valley and experience the purity of this place.
The Gompa or Monastery is built on mountain top overlooking the Spiti river. It was like standing in heaven and I felt totally disconnected from myself and the world. It was a complete emptiness of mind for a few minutes, immersed in the purity and peacefulness of this holy place.
Key Monastery is 15kms from Kaza and takes hardly 30 minutes to ride. People can stay here in the monastery as guests with a minimal payment, only if it’s a small group not more than 6 or 7 members. The monks here are very friendly and accomodating.
Villages in Spiti
It is the first village you encounter while entering Spiti valley from Manali. The famous Chicham bridge at an altitude of 4264 m is the highest bridge in Asia and the only connectivity for the villagers with outer world. This small village holds less-than 50 houses and a small population of less-than 100 people. The people here are very welcoming and you can walk around the village exploring the architecture, the landscape or interacting with the villagers.
Kibber is a small village around 20kms away from Kaza. This mountain village is the second highest motorable village in Asia. The population is very low. The people here are very friendly and there are a few homestays. You can also find few cafes which serves butter tea and snacks. It is also the starting point of few treks through the Himalayas, namely the Kanamo peak trek and Panang La trek. There are people who stay in Kaza and hike through all the villages around.
This village is around 15kms from Kaza. The most interesting fact about this village is the presence of fossils of sea animals which lived millions of years ago. This part of the Himalaya was submerged under the ocean millions of years ago before the formation of Himalaya. A quick hiking through the village and keen eyes can get you fossil remains. It is a very small village and the other main attraction is the temple known as Lang and the huge Buddha statue overlooking the Spiti valley.
Hikkim is much smaller compared to other villages here. But it will be the most visited place after Kaza, since this village holds the world’s highest post office at an altitude of 4440m. Everyone visits this place to send a letter to their dear ones. It’s better to buy some post cards from your city and drop it in the post box here in Hikkim, usually the post office will be crowded with people trying to write letters and post it. Also, the post cards may not be available all the time, in case of higher number of tourists.
It is the highest motorable village in Asia at an altitude of 4500 m. The village only have a population of less-than 60 people. The Tnagyud monastery is the biggest structure here. There is a small cafe, a restaurant and rooms are available for stay. Since it is the highest village in Asia, everything here comes with a “highest” tag. The cafe, highest cafe, the restaurant, highest restaurant, the monastery, highest monastery, the tea you ordered, tea from the highest village and so on.