Lahaul-Spiti is a district in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Essentially, they are two valleys that are located on the border of India and Tibet. Formerly known separately as Lahaul and Spiti, the districts merged in 1960. The administrative centre of this district is Keylong in Lahaul.
Spiti and Lahaul are quite contrasting in personality. Spiti is a cold mountain-desert, barren and difficult to cross. Lahaul is greener and a tad more developed than Spiti. Rudyard Kipling called Spiti "A World Within a World" and "A Place Where the Gods Live" many years ago, in his book 'Kim'.
Lahaul and Spiti are excellent trekking locations and is much revered among nature lovers for its raw beauty. Spiti is also known as "Little Tibet", owing to the similarities in vegetation, landscape and climate between Spiti and Tibet.
Lahaul-Spiti celebrate and follow Buddhism and Hindusim equally. Colorful Buddhist prayer flags dancing to the tunes of the wind indicate the culture of this land. Many fairs such as Pauri, Ladarcha, Tsheshu, Tribal, Fagli and Gochi are celebrated here. Lahaul-Spiti is home to beautiful monasteries, rich flora and fauna, high mountain passes and sweeping rivers.
Here are some of the absolutely must-see places in Lahaul-Spiti district:
1. Rohtang Pass
Located at a whopping height of 3978 metres above sea level, Rohtang Pass has made its appearance in many movies. A permit pass is required to travel to and beyond Rohtang.
The best time to visit Rohtang Pass is from June to October, owing to the abysmal weather conditions during the rest of the year. This is a great trekking spot. Glaciers, waterfalls and peaks render a breathtaking view, quite literally. Rohtang Pass is the only pass that is said to be covered in snow all through the year.
PC: Kiran Jonnalagadda
2. Kunzum La
Called as Kunzum La in Tibetian, Kunzum Pass is one of the highest passes across the Kunzum range. It is located at a height of 4551 metres above the sea level. Kunzum Pass connects Lahaul-Spiti valleys to the Kullu Valley.
The view of the panoramic Bara Shigri glacier is the highlight of Kunzum La. Kunzum Pass is highly photogenic, as opposed to Rohtang Pass. Rohtang Pass has heavy vehicular movement and therefore, is not favourable for photography. Kunzum Devi is considered to be the goddess protecting people visiting this pass. A temple is dedicated to Kunzum Devi in this pass.
PC: Shiraz Ritwik
3. Chandratal Lake
This lake is in the shape of a crescent moon and hence, is called Chandratal. Chandratal Lake trek is one of the famous and much-loved treks in Lahaul-Spiti. It is accessible from Batal as well as from Kunzum Pass by foot.
At a massive altitude of 4300 metres above the sea level, Chandratal is positioned on Samudra Tapu plateau, overlooking river Chandra. There are many camping tents that provide stay options near Lake Chandratal.
PC: Nitinram Velraj
4. Kye Monastery
Also known as Ki Gompa, this monastery was founded in the 11th century. It is the largest Buddhist monastery located in Lahaul-Spiti. Located at a great height of 4166 metres above sea level, this monastery provides some hair-raising views. This is a training centre close to 200 monks and nuns.
This monastery has many rooms that are locked. Kutungh is one such bedroom for the Dalai Lama, that is kept locked in his absence. Kye Monastery is the embodiment of peace and tranquility.
5. Dhankar Lake
The Dhankar Lake is 45 minutes from Dhankar village. It is located at an altitude of 4136 metres above sea level. Set amidst the backdrop of green pastures, Dhankar Lake exhibits a captivating parade of colours.
However during summers the water from this lake evaporates and the lakebed is used as a grazing ground for the sheep. The view of Manirang Peak from this lake trek is simply astounding.
PC: Sumita Roy Dutta
6. Gue Mummy
A tiny village in the Spiti Valley, Gue hardly has a dozen houses. It is famous for the exhibit of the mummy of a monk called Sangha Tenzin. He is the only mummy in India that is known to have attained natural mummification.
The monk is believed to have sacrificed himself to rescue and extricate his village from a plague of scorpions. The village folklore believe that when Sangha Tenzin's soul departed his body, a rainbow appeared and the village was free from scorpions.
7. Hampta Pass
Hampta Pass emerges out of the green valleys of Kullu at right angles to a corridor. The corridor/overhang acts as a balcony from where you can enjoy the view of the world below. Therefore it is considered exclusive and incredible. It is located at an altitude of 4270 metres above sea level.
Hamta Pass is a gateway of sorts to Chandratal Lake. This pass is frequented by the shepherds of lower valleys to seek high altitude grasslands in the summer.
8. Tabo Monastery
Founded in 996 AD, Tabo is one of the earliest running Buddhist monasteries in the country. It is a protected monument and also is deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tabo Monastery has a lot of frescoes and carvings on its walls, which has helped it earn the name, "Ajanta of the Himalayas". It has 9 temples, 4 decorated stupas and cave temples. Tabo grew as an important centre for learning and education during the early centuries. Tabo Monastery currently runs Serkong School, which has about 274 students.
PC: Eshank Sehgal
9. Trilokinath Temple
Situated in the picturesque Chandrabhaga Valley, this temple was built in the 10th century AD. Earlier known as Tunda Vihar, this temple is revered by Hindus and Buddhists alike.
The Hindus and Buddhists offer prayers to the same statue, under different names.
Hindus consider the temple deity as Lord Shiva and Buddhists call him Arya Avalokiteshwar. This makes the temple very unique. Trilokinath Temple is considered to be the most sacred, right after Kailash and Manasarovar.
10. Kibber Village
Kibber Village, situated in Spiti, is the highest motorable village in the world. It is atop an altitude of 4205 metres above sea level. Kibber is a godsend for sky-gazers and photographers because the altitude makes it extremely photogenic.
Kibber, which is pretty close to Kye Monastery, also has many other monasteries. There is a wildlife sanctuary here which has many native animals, such as ibex, Himalayan wolf, snow leopard, etc.
PC: Sanky cse