“A world within a world” was how Rudyard Kipling once described Spiti Valley. Aptly so, as this lesser known neighbour of Ladakh has a lot to offer! From its snow capped peaks to the scenic village tucked away in the lap of the Himalayas, its ancient monasteries, inimitable wildlife and of course a captivating culture and a delicious cuisine, Spiti Valley has something for everyone.
Situated at an altitude of around 12,500 feet over sea level it is bordered by Tibet in the east, Ladakh to the north, Kinnaur to the south east and Lahaul and Kullu to the south, Spiti along with the twin valley of Lahaul carries a pristine charm. If you are planning to visit this picturesque place, here is everything that you need to know:
How to reach and best time to travel
There are two routes to reach Spiti. The Shimla- Narkanda- Rampur- Powari- Puh- Chango route spanning 450 kms which is open round the year and the Manali- Rohtang Pass- Gramphoo- Batal- Kunzum La route covering 220 kms which remains open from June till October.
Winter in Spiti being a harsh affair, the summer months from June to September are considered to be ideal for visiting Spiti. The average temperatures in Spiti during the summer months range from 18° C to 25° C during the day and from 2° C to 8° C during the night.
June and July, in fact see maximum tourists thronging to the place.
The one thing to watch out for though, are the many water crossings on the route, on account of the melting snow. Road conditions are far from perfect. The road between Lohsar and Grampho on the Manali- Spiti highway, for example is virtually non-existent and has a lot of water crossings.
If you happen to visit Spiti during September to Mid October you will be greeted by the sight of autumn colours adding to the beauty of the place, not to mention the delicious Spiti Apples that you will be able to gorge on. However, temperatures at this time are known to drop to 2-3 degrees Celcius in the morning and nights, so heavy woolens are a must have!
What to Carry
The thumb rule when it comes to travelling to a cold mountain desert like Spiti, is to dress in layers. While on the one hand you may encounter harsh sun rays, on the other, the shaded areas will find you looking for your jacket. Remember also to carry a high SPF sun screen along with sun hat and sun glasses.
A raincoat and waterproof shoes are another important requirement.
The high altitude of Spiti (3300-5000 meters) also merits that you consult your doctor and carry AMS medication. Diamox is often preferred by travellers to beat the symptoms. Acclimatizing yourself slowly to the altitude by halting in Kinnaur if you are coming via Shimla, or halting in Manali on the route via Rohtang Pass is recommended. Most importantly, listen to your body and do not push it beyond its limits, too much!
Do remember to carry enough water to keep yourself hydrated through the journey.
While in Spiti feast on its breathtaking beauty. As for remaining connected with the world, only BSNL Sim cards obtained in Himachal Pradesh work in some places in Spiti- namely Kaza Spiti’s administrative capital and few other low villages. Kaza is also home to an internet café with not so admirable speed though.
You will also find an ATM in Kaza. However it is recommended to carry enough cash to last you through the journey, especially as there is near zero usage of debit and credit cards.
Accomodation in Spiti
Homestays are a popular option in Spiti. Although basic in terms of facilities, the homes are spacious and the hospitality to write home about! A word of caution here though- the toilets are dry and de-composting in nature.
You can feast your taste buds with some good food at joints such as the German Bakery in Kaza. There are also restaurants such as Dragon, Layaul and Mahabhudha that offer great food.
While in Spiti of course there is a lot to do, from taking a wildlife safari to a guided meditation retreat! Get your fill of its quaint monasteries, crystal clear rivers and streams as the trip leaves you spell bound to say the least.