Spiti – the meagerly populated Tibetian autonomous region nestled in the Himalayas has been in talks of the travel industry since the past few years. As much as you’d prefer to call it as another hill station vacation, Spiti is not your regular holiday spot.
To be honest, the Desert Mountains of Spiti are not meant for the weak hearted, you need to brave enough to let these mountains help you find a new perspective of life. From scenic views of mighty Himalayas, looming vastness of green lands, glacier streams falling merrily on the rocks, the rich heritage of ancient monasteries, extensive plethora of flora and fauna, the existence of the wildlife, meteor showers, strong values and culture of locals to no network coverage; the valley boasts everything that a modern Homo Sapien requires in this chaotic polluted life to be peaceful and content.
There are reasons for Spiti being the ultimate muse of travellers, the inspiration of the wanderers, a shelter to the adventure-thirsty youngsters and home to the solitude seekers. If you fall into the category of either of the above, plan a trip to Spiti valley and let this beautiful place transform your life in all the right ways.
The Hardship of the Mountains
We often admire the snow-capped mountains and its mesmerizing beauty from a distance. But have you ever imagined how it like is to lead a life at an altitude of almost 5000 meters above the sea level? There is no marked route to reach the Spiti valley. If you are coming from Manali, it takes about 10-12 hours to reach the valley, crossing extremely risky pathways and rough terrains along the mountains, facing the uncertain chances of landslides as well. The valley faces extreme weather conditions, as the chilly winds penetrate right into your skin and the high altitude reduces the level of oxygen.
The inhabitants here live a detached life from civilization with no network connections, solar electricity, limited supply of daily needs and still remain happier than most of us who try to find pretentious happiness in temporary things of the world. You will here learn to find pleasure in the smaller things of life.
Live like the Locals
Spiti doesn’t have an ordinary culture of hotels or resorts. Once you decide to visit the valley, be prepared to live like locals with basic facilities and not expect a 5-star luxury resort. For accommodation, there are very few hostels and mostly homestays for travellers. Homestays are also one of the major sustainable sources of income for the local pahadi families here. They convert a portion of their houses into a guest room with basic necessities including blankets, heaters and food.
Apart from the scenic views and cost-effectiveness, these homestays actually follow the policy of “Atithi Devo Bhava”. The kind of hospitality, welcome and warmth the hosts here offer will make your heart melt into mush. They will have delicious local recipes, unending interesting tales, and stories of their culture, a box full of precious memories, and an abundance of love to give to you. Considering the hardships that they live in, you will be surprised to see the sense of satisfaction and peace of mind these people have. Experiencing homestays of Spiti will give you a reigning lesson of selflessness and gratitude towards life.
More than anything or anyone else, Spiti helps you fall in love with your existence. As you spend 4-5 hours trekking every day, you will be able to count each and every breath you take. All the quotes about self-analysis, self-assessment, peace, tranquillity and solace will start making sense. When you are away from the chaos, you tend to forget your problems and finding yourself attaining nirvana in a wonderful place like this, all your issues in life start seeming irrelevant.
The limitless beauty of these mountains will take over all the negative vibes inside you and will help you radiate only positivity.
The Wilderness Days
From waking up to an unexpected snowfall in the morning in Langza, to sipping a cup of hot thukpa with the backdrop of Himalayas in Mudh, dipping your legs in the pristine glacier water of Pin river, working in the pea farms along with the farmers of Demul, hitchhiking with complete strangers across the valley to sleeping in a tent where Snow Leopards tend to roam around in Kibbar; apart from the regular trekking, camping, hiking, zip lining adventures that every hill station has to offer, the wilderness in Spiti has a little different definition and if you really want to have a taste of thrill and the idea of spontaneity is your cup of tea; this is the place for you.
Nothing like the Pahadi Food
The entire region of Spiti is a big Tibetan family. Inspired by the values of Buddha and the Tibetan delicacies, staying in Spiti will give you the experience of only the delicious local and healthy food. The signature dishes like Momos, Thukpa, Kyu and Thenthuk are very famous amongst the locals. In beverages, Chaza stands to be a very unique and popular salted tea made out of Yak butter. As the temperature is always unexpected and chilly winds can hit you anytime, they always have a special stock of alcoholic drinks like Chang and Arak which are famous even during the festivals, gatherings and other special occasions.
Apart from the local food, a lot of restaurants and cafes have the simple Indian cuisine of Dal, Rice, Roti and Rajma. Snacks like Maggi, Bread Omelette, Pancakes etc are also available in some homestays to relish the millennials’ taste buds. However, my personal suggestion would be to eat only homemade healthy local food to keep up with the stamina.
Comfort in Strangers
You will find the most interesting kinds of people from all over the world at Spiti. Travellers from all around the globe come here in search of a different kind of solace. Some are looking to soak in the Tibetan culture, some wanderers want to get away from their mundane work life and some just to seek the extra sip of adventure. One thing common about every person you will find in Spiti is their love for mountains. One day you are sharing a dorm with a bunch of hippies in Kaza, the next day you will spend the entire day with monks in Komik. The locals here are the most selfless people you could ever find, they will give you more than what they have.
If you are planning to have a solo trip in Spiti, you will not go back without making the everlasting bonds. In here, there’s no danger, suspicious, hesitation and greed. Spiti helps you find comfort even in the strangers.
The Night Adventures
Spiti is not just a paradise during the day, the charm of the place attains a different glory in the night. If you happen to spend a full moon night here, the beautiful escapade of the mountains with a blurry outline will help your soul calm down after the tiresome day of conquering them. Villages like Kaza, Langza, Demul and Mudh are famous for the meteor showers that they experience once in a while. Imagine lying down under the open sky and watching not one not two but hundreds of shooting star altogether. Sounds like a dream come true right?
If you are an extreme daredevil, you could also go off-roading in the night for the kick. But be careful, we all know how tricky mountain tracks can be.
Camping at Chandrataal
A holy glacier lake that lies at the altitude of 4200m above the sea level, Chandrataal is a timeless moon shaped beauty of Spiti. As you trek through Kunzum pass, there are camping grounds set up near the lake. The temperature here is always extremely low and the winds are very strong after the sunset. Camping at Chandrataal will make you question this heavenly reality. The lake always appears crystal clear blue because of the reflection of the sky and Spiti inhabitants believe it to be holy as it never gets polluted even when it is not the flowing water. Visit this place only in summer to enjoy the picturesque mountains backdrop and murmuring water of the lake.
The essence of Spiti can be celebrated differently in different seasons. The actual peak season begins from mid-May and lasts until August as the roads become accessible. By this time, the snow also melts completely and all the amenities can also be available in the villages of Spiti. You can experience both chilly winds and pleasant sun-rays during this time. If you don’t mind a bit of footfall along with you, this is by far the best time to experience this valley in all its glory.
The months of September and October are also the colourful times in Spiti because of the autumn season. You will find lush greenery and variety of flora blooming around valley his time. Don’t forget to keep your woollens though as the temperature drops to 2-3 degrees Celsius. During winters, ranging from November to March end, Spiti experiences very harsh snowfall every year and the winters are at its peak during these months. You will not find anything but snow-capped mountains and blocked roads.
Choose any seasons to visit Spiti and trust me, you will not be disappointed to any extent whatsoever. In fact, if you visit Spiti once in your lifetime, the spellbound beauty of this place will drag you back here over and over again.