Whitewashed desert mountain valley landscapes meander endlessly and then you come across a tiny village with a sign that proudly proclaims (Population: Humans: 35; Animals: 75) and you know you are at a place virtually untouched by time. Beautiful mountains interspersed with stark homes and monasteries perched thousands of feet above sea level – Spiti Valley unfolds itself stunningly.
Spiti means ‘The Middle Land’ and is literally located in the middle of India and Tibet in the northeast part of Himachal Pradesh. It has a distinctive Buddhist culture and is one of the least populated regions of India and gateway to the northern most area of India.
The highlights of Spiti valley are the Ki and the Tabo Monasteries that were also used as locations of the spectacular scenery and cinematography in a few films. The Pin valley has still got a few Buchen Lamas of the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism.
Spiti is also the summer home to hundreds of semi-nomadic Gaddi sheep and goat herders who come to this valley for grazing their animals from the surrounding villages. They come after the snow melts and leave just before winter starts.
Another focal point of the area is the undulating Spiti River which is flanked by giant barren mountains that rise to very high elevations.
Expect miles of natural beauty! That is the beauty of Spiti – you will drive for hours gazing at rugged and stark scenery without coming across anyone; and even if you come across someone they will most likely be sitting around and soaking in the stunning landscape.
Interestingly, most of the villages just get an hour of electricity everyday and they use it to quickly finish the chores.
You will see many bikers on the way who make their way on one of the most demanding roads of India. Sections of the road are occasionally washed away by the rain, so always keep an extra couple of days in hand.
In every village you will find at least one friendly villager, willing to give you a room for stay. Meals are basic with a simple meat/chicken curry, lentils, egg preparations, paranthas and the good old Maggi noodles being the mainstay of most menus. Camping is also a good option here, but you need to carry your own equipment and gear.
Spiti can be accessed via Kinnaur driving ahead from Shimla. The 412-km long road is not in very good condition and the drive is tough.
Foreigners need special permits to enter Spiti Valley. Another way to enter Spiti is via the Kunzum Pass from Manali.