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This trip takes you from the green Kullu valley to the cold mountain desert of the Spiti Valley. Spiti falls in the rain-shadow area with partial Trans-Himalayan Barrenness. Deep in the lap of the Himalayas, this region has preserved its history, culture and traditions of over a thousand years – no wonder it is popularly known as the Ajanta of the Himalayas.
Beautiful monasteries perched on top of the mountains & cliffs, beautiful hoodoos and the serene blue river are awe-inspiring.
Foreigners require a protected area permit for area beyond Kaza. Cars also need permit for Rohtang pass.
By 12 Noon on Day 0ne
Report in Manali by 12 noon. Optional: Walk to Hadimba (Hidimba) Devi temple, the primary Goddess of Manali to seek her blessings for the trip. We will also visit Old Manali and the market area to shop for some snacks & sweets for the trip further.
Start early for the long drive to Kaza. The road climbs steadily through the beautiful green meadows to the first pass of the day – the 3980m Rohtang Jot. After a short photo break at the pass, we descend down to Gramphu T –junction.
Here we leave the road leading to the Lahaul valley and head towards the Spiti valley along the rough Chandra river. The scenery is very different and marked by high snow-capped mountains, dry & rugged terrain and cascading waterfalls. The road again climbs up to another imposing high pass; the Kunzum La 45m. There on, we descend to Losar, the first village in the Spiti valley. We carry on to Kaza, the sub-divisional headquarters of the remote Spiti valley. Time permitting, we shall also visit the Kibber village & monastery. Kibber is one of the highest habited village in the world at 4250m/ 13945ft. It was part of the overland salt trade centuries ago, and is a small but pretty place with friendly people.
After a late breakfast, we go on an excursion to Hikkim, Komic and Langza.
Langza 4400m is famous for its fossils and a statue of Buddha overlooking the mountain ranges. Fossils of marine creatures and plants are found in plenty under the sedimentary rocks. These fossils are around millions of years old and are mostly cephalopod (marine animals characterized by bilateral body symmetry – a prominent head and a set of arms or tentacles).
Komic/ Komik (‘Ko’- snow cock, ‘Mic’-eye), situated at an elevation of 4587 meters/ 15050ft is one of the highest villages in Asia and literally means the eye of a snow cock. This quaint little farming village houses a population of 84 in 13 households. One of the world’s highest monasteries (4513 meters), called “Komic Lundup Chhemo” is situated in this village and belongs to the Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Hikkim boasts of the highest Post Office.
From Kaza a little further East, slightly off the main Kaza-Tabo highway, on top of a steep sided mountain ridge jutting out over the valley is Dankar (Dhankar); the ancient capital of Spiti. It houses the 16th century Dankar Monastery. The view of the monastery and fortress ruins is most spectacular as it hangs on a cliff and overlooks the confluence of Spiti and Pin River.
We carry on to Tabo Monastery. Optional: Visit the Mummy at Giu. Drive back to Kaza.
The famous Tabo Monastry is more than 1000 years old and home to many precious Thanka paintings, including the Pillar of a Thousand Buddhas. The entry to the monastery complex, spread over 6300sq m, is made of earthen walls with marvellous colourful frescoes inside. The Murals, Thankas and paintings are believed to have been made in a single night by the Gods themselves. The ancient paintings depict the life of Buddha and legends from the Jataka Tales (collection of Buddhist stories especially for Children). Tabo monastery is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is also called the ‘Ajanta’ of the Himalayas. It is believed that the present Dalai Lama will live here upon retirement. Designed in West-Tibetan style, the Gompa houses impressive murals, and sculptures. There is a painting school in the Gompa itself. In addition to this, there are some caves on a hillside, known as Dawang, with some famous murals.
Start early for the drive to Chandratal with a stop at the most photographed monastery of Spiti, Ki 4166m/ 13668ft (also spelled as Kye or Key). It is located on top of a mountain and belongs to the Gelugpa Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery has an excellent collection of ancient paintings & scriptures and a school attached to it with approx. 100 monks. It also has some rare silk Thangka’s from Tibet that are said to be 800 years old.
Drive on to the KunzumLa pass 4590m/15060ft. from the base of the pass, we take the small rough road to ChandraTal. Check in to the tents. Later drive to the lake as the camping site is slightly away to conserve the environment.
After an early breakfast, drive to Manali.
Departure from Manali. Room is booked till 12 noon today.