Discovering the Lahaul & Spiti Valley: A Complete Guide for Offbeat Travels

‘A world within itself’ is what best describes this majestic barren trans-Himalayan region of Lahaul and Spiti interspersed with gorgeous rivers, mesmerizing clear water lakes, and pristine valleys. The unadulterated charming views of the Lahaul valley and the cold desert of Spiti valley are sure to leave you spell-bound.

Lahaul and Spiti are without a doubt among the best places to visit in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh for travellers, meditators, holidayers, bikers and nature lovers.

Basically, there is something for every traveller in these mountains

The image shows the iconic architecture of monasteries of the Lahaul-Spiti region

Image Courtesy: hpgeneralstudies.com

Food and Culture

The cultural richness of both the valleys is something to be experienced. A fine lineage of Buddhist traditions interspersed with Hindu customs is to be witnessed in this colourful highland.

The Lahaul and Spiti district with its rich Buddhist culture is the 4th least densely populated district in India, yet the warm hospitality in the harsh climatic conditions will truly amaze you. 

The pic shows traditional Tibetan momos, locally grown potatoes, savoury butter tea, Tsampa
rotis made from barley flour etc

Image courtesy: outlookindia.com

The unique blend of Hindu-Buddhist-Tibetan influences reflects in the cuisine here. Lahaul Spiti food is very filling and very tantalizing because of the locally grown organic ingredients that make it all the more tasteful and fresh.

In the areas of Lahaul and Spiti, Tibetan dishes are more common like Momos, Thukpa, Kyu, Churpe, Thentuk, Tsampa, and Chilies. This is due to the major Tibetan influence in the region. The options are limited but delectable for sure. 

Local food in Lahaul and Spiti valley usually comes from freshly harvested crops. There are a plethora of vegetables found here: potatoes, green leafy veggies, green peas, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, and carrots. 

Choosing a homestay during your Lahaul Spiti vacation is a great idea to experience the local food and flavours.

At a homestay, you get the rare opportunity to taste some traditional family recipes such as Bhey (a different kind of dish made from lotus stems), Thentuk (another variant for Thupka which uniquely has Yak meat), Tudkiya Bhaath (authentic Pahari version of Pulao), Chha Gosht (delectable lamb dish), Gahat ka Shorba (stew prepared with a local grain called Gahat).

Get bursts of flavour with these authentic Lahaul Spiti flavours.

The temperature is comfortable for a vacation during summer in Lahaul Spiti whereas winters are below sub-zero temperatures with snow-covered mountains. This is why most of the roads like the Rohtang Pass and Kunzum La are closed during this time of the year.

Therefore the best time to visit Spiti valley is from May to September with conducive temperatures and a good break from the sweltering heat that envelops most parts of the country.

Spiti Winter Tourism

It is a fascinating and fond dream to witness Spiti Valley in the winter months. Offbeat Tracks is right with you to make this dream come true and arrange Spiti winter tourism for you. True for the adventurer and the seeker in you, the highlights like off-roading, seeking solitude, and witnessing untouched white landscapes cannot be missed.

The vulnerable and majestic snow leopards are the main attraction in the snowscapes of Spiti. The best time to spot them is between December to March. They are mostly spotted near the Pin Valley and Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary. 

The pic above shows the Atal Tunnel built under the Rohtang Pass on the Leh-Manali Highway

Image courtesy: siasat.com

Earlier, Lahaul was cut off from the rest of the country in the winter months, as the only access through Rohtang Pass would close due to heavy snowfall. 

The Atal tunnel opened to the public in October 2020 and has been a gamechanger for the Lahaul valley. It is a 9 km long tunnel built under the Rohtang Pass. The valley can now be accessed in the winter as well. If you’ve been looking for a sign to go for that vacation, this is it! Plan a winter vacation to Lahaul Spiti to take picture-perfect dazzling photos and sights ready to bewitch you!

Are Lahaul and Spiti the same? Let’s find out. 

Difference between Lahaul and Spiti

Pic shows the Spiti river flowing through the valleys of Lahaul and Spiti

Image courtesy: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Lahaul and Spiti are separated by the Kunzum La pass. Though these two valleys are visually stunning, they are as different as night and day. Lahaul shows colourful vegetation due to more rainfall, whereas Spiti is like a cold and barren hill desert receiving very less rainfall. 

Pic shows Kunzum La Pass that separates Lahaul and Spiti

   Image courtesy: offbeattracks.com

This creates dramatic and contrasting sights. The Lahaul valley boasts of lush greenery brought about by the Chandra and Bhaga rivers. Spiti, on the other hand, known as the ‘Land of Lamas’ has craggy hills with a harsh climate. 

Pic shows barren Spiti peaks interspersed with Spiti waters

Image courtesy: outlookindia.com

The Spiti Valley has the Himalayas skirting it all over its borders, receiving very less sunshine (just 250 days) yearly. This is also one of the reasons it is among the coldest places in India. 

The Spiti river flows as a tributary of the Sutlej river. Spiti river has its origin in the Kunzum Himalayan mountain range and divides the valleys of Lahaul and Spiti. These valleys get almost no rain and hence the water in the Spiti river comes from melted glaciers higher up.

All the settlements like Kaza, Tabo and Dhankar are located along this river. The monasteries too are situated overlooking the Spiti river as if symbolizing the water element of spirituality. 

Spitian architecture

A special mention is for the type of building found in these upper reaches of the Himalayan state. Since the local climate of this area is cold, the construction and architecture are peculiar to the region.

The buildings are made of thick mud walls (the primary material locally available) that have small openings in the interior to insulate against the bone-chilling cold. This type of architecture and construction is known as Spitian architecture. 

The pic above shows houses made of thick mud walls with small openings to protect against extreme cold

Image Courtesy: world-housing.net

The roofs, doors, window frames and floors are made of timber whereas the walls of buildings are made of rammed earthen walls. Since natural stones are in scarcity, they are only used in the foundation of building the structure.  Both rural and sub-rural houses are found to be constructed in this manner.

We believe that Lahaul and Spiti offer more than just sightseeing. Here is a quick breakdown of some Offbeat experiences that you need on your bucket list for your next trip!

1. Monastery Visit- Monasteries of Lahaul

These places of Buddhist worship are symbols of an amazing blend of culture, heritage and architecture. All of them are perched on hilltops and promise breathtaking views of the valleys below. 

  • Kardang monastery

Kardang monastery

Pic shows the beautiful Kardang monastery in Lahaul

Image Courtesy: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Kardang Monastery is the largest monastery in this area as Kardang was earlier the centre for Lahaul when the Lahaul and Spiti districts were separate. This monastery has a lot of Buddhist scriptures and texts and is of great importance to Buddhists. Most lamas and chomos live in this monastery.

  • Guru Ghantal Monastery

Guru Ghantaal Monastery

Pic shows the Guru Ghantal monastery situated near the Tandi village at the confluence of the Chandra and Bhaga rivers

Image courtesy: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Located at the confluence of the Chandra and Bhaga rivers in a village called Tupchiling village. The wooden idols are a distinct feature of this Gompa in contrast to the other monasteries having clay idols. 

  • Shashur Monastery             

Shashur Monastery 

 Pic shows the Shashur monastery founded in the 16th Century

Image courtesy: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

 Shashur in the local dialect means ‘blue pines’. The monastery is so named due to the blue pines that can be seen in the area around. The biggest Thanka paintings, as tall as 15 feet are found here. Shashur boasts of the most popular Chham dance in Lahaul performed in June or July months every year. 

  • Tayul

Tayul

The image shows one of the oldest monasteries of Lahaul

Image courtesy: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Tayul monastery houses the biggest 12 feet tall Padma Sambhava statue. The statue is 12 feet tall. Ta-yul stands for the ‘chosen place’ in the local dialect.  

  • Ghemur

Ghemur

Pic shows the Ghemur monastery famous for the devil dance by Lamas

Image courtesy: en.wikipedia.com 

Ghemur monastery is located about 18 km from Keylong. Lamas perform the devil dance here in July. 

Planning a quiet trip to Lahaul? 

We custom build it for you. Get in touch for a tailor-made itinerary.

Monasteries of Spiti

  • Dhankar Monastery

Dhankar Monastery

The image shows the Dhankar monastery that was built as a fort

Image courtesy: en.wikipedia.com

Dhankar Monastery is a picturesquely located Gompa at an altitude of almost 13,000 feet. It is more than a 1000-year-old monastery that overlooks the breath-taking Pin and Spiti rivers. Dhankar Monastery is also listed as an endangered world site. 

  • Key Monastery

The Key Monastery lies in the Spiti Valley and is a popular Tibetan Buddhist monastery perched at 4166 m above sea level. It is a famous Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the Lahaul and Spiti District of India.

Key Monastery

             The image shows the Tabo monastery of Spiti valley, known also as the Ajanta of the Himalayas

Image courtesy: offbeatracks.com

  • Tabo Monastery

Among the oldest monasteries in the Spiti region is the Tabo monastery up at 10,000 feet. Its distinguishable feature is the ancient paintings and mural adorned walls, hence giving it the name of ‘Ajanta of the Himalayas. 

2. Bird watching at Lagcha in Spiti village 

For the birders, there’s a sure treat in the Spiti valley. The forests of the Pin national park are home to a vast variety of cold desert birds. The areas around Dhankar lake at an altitude of 4136 metres above sea level are another bird’s paradise.

The pic above is of the Warbler bird found in the Spiti valley

 Image courtesy: en.wikipedia.com

The Lammergeier, Twite, Warbler, both sulphur-bellied and Tickell’s leaf Desert Wheatear, Himalayan snowcock can be spotted by the bird watchers. On occasions, there are other migratory bird species that also pay a visit. 

Add this activity to your next trip with us. Bird watching is a great activity for nature lovers, kids and adults alike.

3. Mummy Village visit

The Gue village, situated in the Spiti valley at a distance of 40 kilometres from the Tabo monastery, is called the Mummy village. 

Mummy Village visit

               The above picture shows the Gue monastery which houses the age-old mummy

  Image courtesy: en.wikipedia.com

A perfectly preserved mummy that is almost 500 years old lies inside the monastery known as Gui or Gue monastery. 

preserved mummy

Image of the mummy of Gue village

Image courtesy: en.wikipedia.com

The mummy is believed to be of a Buddhist monk from Tibet, Sangha Tenzing. He was the one to start the self-mummification process while he was still alive! The mummy was found with his skin and hair intact in a sitting position. We recommend avoiding taking children below 12 years to this site as it may not be the right sight for them. 

4. Visit the world’s highest villages and post office

Komic and Kibber are the world’s highest villages, located at an altitude of 15,500 ft and 14,200 ft respectively from sea level. 

world’s highest villages and post office

The above image is of a signpost at the Kibber village- the world’s highest village connected by a motorable road

Image courtesy: offbeatracks.com 

They are both located in the Spiti valley and are a must-visit to experience the rawness of nature. The locals here are very warm and welcoming towards tourists. Kibber is also home to a wildlife sanctuary which is another attraction. 

post office

                   The image above is the world’s highest post office at Hikkim in Lahaul Spiti district

Image courtesy: thehindu.com 

The world’s highest post office has now got a new look in the form of a post office at a height of 14,567 ft above sea level. It is situated at a place called Hikkim in the Spiti district. 

5. Yak rides

Let’s see, how many animals have you been on the back of? Horse? Done. Camel? Done. How about a Yak? If not, then you have the perfect chance to ride this very humble and cute animal at the Spiti valley. It is indeed a fun and unique experience for kids and adults alike. 

Yak

The picture shows the humble and cute creatures full of wool- the Yaks

Image courtesy: en.wikipedia.com 

The yaks are only found in high-altitude areas and one must definitely grab the chance for a ride and click pictures for rare and cherished memories. 

6. Stargazing

Stargazing as an activity can be undertaken both at Lahaul and Spiti. 

  • Stargazing at Lahaul 

The Sissu village which is the doorway to Lahaul, Spiti and Ladakh areas via the Atal Tunnel, is a great spot for stargazing in Lahaul Spiti. If you are an Astro-enthusiast or stargazer, Sissu will provide the perfect setting for you. 

Chandrabhaga River is another spot for Stargazing in Lahaul. It is also a great idea to camp at the riverside of this gushing river to enjoy a night full of starry sparkle. 

Stargazing

The picture shows the starlit sky in Spiti. The Milky Way lights up to a rare spectacle!

Image courtesy: en.wikipedia.com

  • Stargazing at Spiti

In Spiti, the villages are perched at higher altitudes than even Lahaul. These villages are Dhankar, Tabo, Kibber and Komik. Therefore, one of the best things to do in Spiti valley is stargazing.

With heights ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 feet above sea level, all you do is look up to the cosmos and you’re in for a massive treat. If you’re lucky enough, you might also spot a shooting meteor. 

7. Confluence at Tandi 

Tandi village is known to be the place providing breath-taking views of the confluence of the Chandra and Bhaga rivers. It is located in the Pattan valley, at a distance of 8 km from Keylong.

While there are numerous offbeat experiences to explore and enjoy in Lahaul and Spiti, the valleys also offer the usual touristy things. This different world of Lahaul Spiti makes even the most common tourist activities feel unique and exquisite. Therefore, we advise that you must indulge in some of them for a fulfilling experience. 

8. Shopping 

fro the Spiti markets

The picture above is from the Spiti markets, though limited but surely worth a go

Image courtesy: himachalstory.com

Kaza is the best and the only place where you can shop for woollen clothes, woollen shawls made of pure wool, ceramics, carpets and also some local jewellery. Shop for Thangka paintings at Lahaul and Spiti, in the big monasteries. 

9. Trekking in Lahaul and Spiti

Both the valleys have some breathtaking views. They are challenging for sure, but completely worth the toil. These are the treks you can undertake for undeniably stunning scenes the mountains provide. 

  • Hampta pass Trek
  • Chandra Tal Lake Trek
  • Ghepan Ghat Trek
  • Parang La Trek
  • Baralacha Trek
  • Pin Parvati Pass Trek
  • Yunam Peak Trek
  • Mount Kamano Trek

10. Riverside camping 

Riverside camping

The picture above is of the serene and stunning Chandra Tal lake

Image courtesy: pixabay.com

Riverside camping awaits you at the Jispa river. The Chandra Tal has been declared a wetland to preserve it for our future generations.

We at Offbeat Tracks, follow responsible tourism and understand that we are to take charge to preserve our lands and lakes. Therefore, it is best to refrain from any activity near the Chandra Tal, just revel in the beauty of this magnificent moon lake.  

Get more details about this experience 

Talk to our Expert who will guide you well through all your queries. 

11. Colorful festivals of Lahaul and Spiti in July and August 

There are many festivals celebrated all over the district of Lahaul and Spiti. Following are the prominent and significant ones. 

  • Ladarcha Fair

This festival is more of an exchange of traders. It is celebrated in Kaza in the month of August. 

  • Tsheshu

The Tsheshu fair is celebrated in many monasteries like the Shashur, Key, Gemur, Kardang, Mane and Tabo in the month of June.

Tsheshu

The image shows a masked dance called ‘Devil dance’

Image courtesy: pixabay.com

Its most distinguishable character is the Devil dance that is performed by the  Lamas. They adorn masks and colourful dresses to perform their dances.  

  • Pauri Festival

This festival is celebrated in August every year and is a prominent festival of the people of Lahaul. 

  • Tribal Fair Keylong

It is a state-level fair celebrated at Keylong which is the district headquarters. Cultural troupes are called in from Dharamsala, Chandigarh, Kullu, Leh, Chamba, and Spiti. 

Tribal Fair Keylong

         The above image shows the Tribal fair of Keylong

  Image courtesy: wikidata.com

12. Visit to the Triloknath temple and Markula Devi Temple

The Triloknath temple has the idol of Lord Shiva, worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists. The charming views of the Chandra and Bhaga rivers make for a contemplative stop in your journey. 

The Markula Devi temple dedicated to Goddess Kali is situated at the hilltop overlooking the bazaar at Udaipur which is the second-largest town of Lahaul. The silver idol inside the temple is a sight to behold. Views from the mandir are charismatic and beautiful. 

13. Bike rides in the Trans-Himalayan region

Lahaul and Spiti district is a paradise for adventure admirers. Bike riding in the Trans-Himalayan region is the most sought-after activity. Panoramic views of the valleys, the majestic mountains and the lovely alpine lakes welcome the riders with open arms. 

     The image depicts the terrain of Lahaul Spiti for offroading on bikes

  Image courtesy: wikitravel.com

We, at Offbeat Tracks, can cater to all your adventures. Do let us know if you wish for us to include these rides in your itinerary. 

14. Rafting at Pin and Spiti Rivers

The above image shows Rafting in the Spiti river

Image courtesy: wikitravel.com

Pin and Spiti rivers in the Spiti valley are very fierce rivers with the tremendous flow, apt for river rafting activities. Adventure lovers, this for sure should be on your list. The crystal clear waters make the rafting experience more enjoyable and fun. 

Be welcomed by the long winding roads and valleys presenting you with unforgettable glimpses of cold desert and snow-crowned mountains. Be mesmerised to the maximum by this land frozen in time.

Come, and experience the beautiful, raw bliss of Lahaul and Spiti with Offbeat Tracks. Connect with us and get the most amazing travel experience of this stunningly raw mountain valley.

Author

  • A traveller and a dreamer, Apra is an avid reader and has an inherent passion for writing. She likes to travel to new places and appreciates the company of people wherever she is. A happy-go-lucky person, her mantra is to take life as it comes and believes in going with the flow. She enjoys knitting and swimming too! She joined Offbeat Tracks as a Content Writer in May 2022 and has immense love for her job.

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