“Is this all really true? Do the Gods dwell here?”
A constant thought that repeats itself at every bend and turn in your journey through Spiti Valley – maybe I am just dreaming; maybe I need to pinch myself.
The beauty of Spiti in winters is all encompassing. Nothing will ever prepare you for the surreal wonder that it is; sucking you in its snowy embrace and leaving you dazed and delighted at the same time. You’ll be mesmerised by sights at every moment, every mile filling you up with awe and gratitude.
Get enchanted by the transforming landscapes, and draw every source of warmth from views like these.
Slather all the sunscreen you want. Pile on every layer that you have carried in your backpack. Be prepared to face the beatings of the dry, harsh winds. All for watching heaven unfold in front of your eyes.
Climb up to Dhankar Gompa, locked between rocky spurs atop a cliff, and witness the picture of serenity that will make anyone want to retrospect.
Spiti in winters is not an easy place to be. The temperatures can plummet to minus 40 degrees. Everything is frozen, including running water in pipes. Landslides are frequent, and the cold is extremely harsh. But the magnanimous beauty of frozen waterfalls almost makes up for everything.
And as you move further into Pin Valley, the temperatures go lower, but your spirit soars higher. Semi-frozen rivers, criss-crossing across some of the most dramatic landscapes, glaciers hanging above narrow roads, little red houses dotting the white blanket of snow – all these spectacular little nuggets will convince you of living the rest of your life amidst this marvellous beauty.
And if this is not enough, get ready to be blown away by the hospitable environs of Mudh, the last village of Pin Valley. The white mud houses with colourful bands and pretty windows, kids running around the village with red cheeks and a snowball in their hands, and locals huddled in groups with a big smile on their lips, will all welcome travellers with open arms, into their homes.
The real beauty of Spiti lies in its plethora of monasteries or Gompas, and what better than the famed Key Gompa to prove that. Hike up from Key village, through narrow, pebbly mountain paths and watch the monastery appear bit-by-bit, perched precariously atop a hill, and surrounded by beautiful barren mountains.
Move further ahead to the Fossil village of Langza, also considered to be one of the highest villages in the valley nestled between the mountains in a bowl shaped area. Wake up to bright, sunny mornings, and hike up the nearest hill housing a magnificent Buddha statue. Sit down to meditate and experience what it is to feel like a tiny speck under the vastness of the blue canopy above.
Brimming with joy and vitality, Spiti Valley quenches the thirst of your parched soul. Between snow leopard spotting, ‘Arak’-fuelled adventures, waterfall hiking, garlic soup, silent prayers and ghost tales, Spiti Valley will take your heart away, and maybe, never return it to you. And you will realize this on your way back, as you keep replaying montages of the journey, where you grew in adversity (Also read: There is no right time to travel), forged long-lasting bonds, and finally understood that in this know-it-all world, inexplicable beauty and mystery still exists.
Getting to Spiti Valley:
Spiti Valley is a high-altitude desert in the district of Lahaul and Spiti, in northeastern Himachal Pradesh. The district capital of Kaza is 204 km/12-14 hours from Manali and 420 km/16 hours from Shimla. The road from Manali is shut during winters and travellers will need to follow the Hindustan-Tibet highway via Shimla, which is an all-weather road. The closest airport is in Kullu at Bhuntar, 50 km from Manali. Manali is 550 km from Delhi and 260 km from Chandigarh. There are many Volvo buses plying between the hill station of Manali/Shimla and major cities.
There are very few buses that ply in the winters in Spiti. The Kaza bus stand has only 1-2 buses to connect it with the outside world. Local bus connectivity to other small villages in Spiti valley is not possible due to snow on the roads. However, depending on snowfall at various places, there are shared taxis that ply to remote villages in Spiti. Although they may charge a very high amount. Travel by bikes is difficult and not advised due to the cold and snowy terrains.
I travelled with Spiti Holiday Adventure, a three-decade old travel company based out of Kaza that runs all-inclusive trips to the region. They organize a variety of trips and treks in the region, that introduce travellers to Spiti’s real beauty. For more information, visit http://spitiholidayadventure.com/about.