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Kaza & Spiti Valley; the land of Barren Mountain

Updated: May 25, 2023

​Kunzum Pass | Losar | Kye – Kibber – Chicham – Gette – Tashigang Circuit | Hikkim – Komic – Langza Circuit | Tabo | Dhankar Monastery

Geographic Location: The commercial and administrative center of Spiti Valley, Kaza is situated in the Lahaul-Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, India. It is situated at the foot of the steep ridges on the left bank of Spiti River, at a height of 3,800 meters (12,468 ft) above mean sea level.

Access: The nearest airport is Bhuntar, Kullu (252.9 KM) which is well connected to Delhi.

The nearest broad gauge railhead is Kalka (513.1 KM) which is well connected with major railheads of Northern Railway like Ambala Cantonment, Old Delhi, and Shimla is the nearest narrow gauge railhead (421.6 KM).

Kaza is connected by NH22 with Manali via Rohtang Pass (3,978 M), Gramphu, Losar, Batal, and Kunzum Pass (4,590 M), and the distance from Manali is 203.2 KM. The drive from Gramphu to Kunzum Pass would be a tough experience indeed.

Brief Facts: This part of the Western Himalayas is a high-altitude cold desert. It also has resemblances between adjacent Ladakh regions and Tibet in terms of topographical features of the land, barren landscape, climate, tribal habitat, the architecture of monasteries, and Buddhist culture. The 360-degree view of colorful mountains and the shadow of the clouds in the desert mountain ranges with the Tibetan music of Buddhist monastic religious chanting buzzing in the ear would give you a unique and indescribable experience.

Spiti Valley is an educational, cultural, and research Centre for Buddhists and local people follow Vajrayana Buddhism which is another similarity with nearby Ladakh regions and Tibet. There are a few important monasteries in the valley, such as Kye Monastery, Dhankar Monastery, and Tabo Monastery (estd. 996 AD), which is one of the oldest monasteries in the world. The uniqueness of the architecture of the local monasteries is noteworthy.

Adventure seekers can opt for one-day trekking from here to Hikim and Komic villages. Another interesting fact is, in Hikim village, a post office (PIN 172114) is there, which is the highest altitude post office in the world situated at an elevation of 4,400 meters above mean sea level. Also, the world’s highest petrol pump and retail outlet, run by Indian Oil Corporation Limited is there in Kaza and it is situated at the elevation of 3,740 meters above mean sea level.

Best Time to Visit: April to October is the best time to visit Kaza. Winter months roads connected to Shimla and Manali, especially NH22, remain closed due to snowfall. 15th of October is the official closing day of Kunzum Pass (4590 M) which is the connection between Lahaul and Spiti Valley. June and July are the hottest months of the year when the temperature rises up to 10 to 12 °C, and December & January are the coldest months when the temperature goes down to below -20 degrees Celsius.

Nearest Attractions: Although the entire region offers a wide range of attractions, notable places are listed below.

Kunzum Pass (4590 M) Rohtang Pass is the gateway to Lahaul from Kullu District, likewise, Kunzum Pass is the gateway to Spiti Valley coming from Lahaul. Coming from Manali after crossing Rohtang Pass, there is a small locality Gramphoo (66 KM from Manali) and from there Kunzum Pass is about 62 KM. While passing through this lofty pass, the panoramic view of the Bara-Sigri glacier, considered the second longest glacier in the world, would fascinate travelers. A temple of goddess Durga is also there on the top of the pass. The distance of this place from Kaza is 74.7 km.

Losar (4,080 M) It is situated near the junction of Losar and Peeno streams and it is about 57 kilometers away from Kaza. This tiny village is the first big locality entering the Spiti Valley. Yak and horse riding would be a unique experience here.

Kye Monastery (4,166 M) This beautiful monastery complex is situated about 14 KM north of Kaza and people from mainly the western part of Spiti come here. This is the oldest and the biggest monastery in the valley. It was built in the 11th century. It is situated on the top of a hill adjacent to the Spiti River. There are so many books on Buddhism & Buddha’s teachings, precious murals & thangkas (painting on cotton or silk appliqué mainly), beautiful scriptures, and paintings of the Lord and other goddesses in the Monastery houses. Monks get religious training here and they perform dancing, singing, and playing on pipes & horns.

Kibber – Chicham – Gette – Tashigang Circuit – This total circuit may take up to half a day to complete depending on the condition of the road, and exploration time in each of the places. This route is approximately 61 KM long starting from Kye Monastery to back to Kaza. This route encompasses four villages, and the distances between them are listed below.

Kye to Kibber (4,270 M) – 6 KM, Kibber to Chicham (4,144 M) – 6 KM, Kibber to Gette (4,270 M) – 12 KM, and Gette to Tashigang – 5 KM and Tashigang to Kaza return – 32 KM.

Kibber Village (4,270 M) – Locally known as Khyipur, Kibber is one of the highest villages in the world and it is situated in a narrow valley encircled by Desert Mountains from all sides. The distance from Kaza is approximately 20 KM. There is a civil dispensary, school, and post office in the village. It is also famous among wildlife enthusiasts as it lies in Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a denizen of animals like snow leopard, Himalayan ibex, red fox, Himalayan blue sheep, Himalayan wolf, lynx, and Tibetan wild ass. Kibber is also the base for trekking to Mount Kanamo (4,300 M). This isolated village is rich in marine fossils. A very old monastery is also there in the village.

Chicham is the next small village on this route. There is a 114 M-long suspension bridge which separates Kibber and Chicham and it has been inaugurated on 15th August 2017. It is considered one of the highest bridges in Asia. The serenity, tranquil ambiance, and natural beauty are the main appeal of this place.

Coming from Chicham, you need to return to Kibber, and from there, Gette Village (4,270 M) can be accessed. 26 KM away from Kaza, this very small village is said to be one of the highest inhabited villages in the world with an altitude of 4270 meters above mean sea level.

The very next Tashigang is a tiny village with a few houses in the village. There is a small monastery also in the village, and it is called Somang Monastery. This village is situated in the Sutlej River valley. Marine fossils are also found here. From here, you can return to Kaza or proceed towards Hikkim – Koimc – Langza circuit.

Dhankar Monastery (3,894 M) Travellers come here in search of Unique Tibetan culture and Tibetan architecture. Situated at the elevation of 3,894 meters above mean sea level, Dhankar Monastery or Dhankar Gompa is a fort on a cliff and it is situated on the confluence of Spiti and Pin Rivers. In the monastery, there is a statue of four bodied Dhyani Buddha which is the principal figure. More than 150 monks reside in the monastery. This monastery serves the population of the eastern side of Spiti. During the 17th century, Dhankar village was the traditional capital of the Spiti Valley Kingdom ruled by the Nonos who are the early rulers of Spiti. The distance from Kaza to this place is approximately 34 kilometers.

Hikkim – Komic – Langza Circuit – This total circuit may take up to 2 – 3 hours of driving depending on the condition of the road, but exploration time in each of the villages would definitely exceed. This route is approximately 45 KM long. This route encompasses three villages, and the distances between them are listed below.

Kaza to Hikkim (4,440 M) – 15 KM, Hikkim to Komic (4,740 M) – 4 KM, Komic to Langza (4,400 M) – 10 KM, and Langza to Kaza rerurn – 16 KM

Hikkim is a tiny village with very few houses. In this village, a post office was built in 1983, which is said to be the highest post office in the world. In this village, a small monastery is also there. Farming is the elementary source of living for the villagers. This remote village is rich in trilobite fossils.

The very next village on this route is Komic or Kaumik. It is also rich in fossils. The natural beauty of the village is inexpressible in words. A 500-year-old Tangyud Monastery is also there, and it is considered to be one of the highest-altitude monasteries in India.

The 3rd village in this route is Langza which has recorded the highest number of fossils. Subsequently, this village is also known as ‘Fossil Village’. From this place, you would witness the view of the ‘Chau Chau Kang Nilda’ peak and the term mean ‘Blue moon in the sky. The large statue of Lord Buddha statue is also there in the village which is visible from the road entering into the village. A couple of hours of trekking may include Tsonyeti and Chumo Tso, the two beautiful lakes on the trip. You can return to Kaza from here or you can drive to Kibber village.

Tabo (3,280 M) – It is a small town next to Kaza and it is situated on the left bank of the Spiti River. It is only 40 KM away from the border between India and Tibet.

There is a very old monolithic architectural monastery in Tabo, known as Tabo Monastery. It was built in 996 AD. This historic treasure is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In this monastery complex, there are nine sub-temples, four decorated stupas, and cave shrines. There are collections of so many books on Buddhism, and precious manuscripts in this monastery, and inside walls are decorated with frescoes paintings on Buddhism, and scroll paintings. A museum and a library are also there. The monks perform traditional dances and songs here. Chakhar festival is the local festival, which is held every three years, usually in the month of September or October. This festival is devoted to happiness and peace.

Things to Do:

  • Historical Journey: Spiti Valley is often called the ‘Middle Century’. Its history goes back to the 10th century when this part was belonging to one of the three sons of the King of Ladakh. Then for a long period of time, its history was associated with Ladakh. After the Ladakh-Tibet War of 1681-83, it became independent. Then Dogras ruled till 1846 and after that British Empire took over. Lahaul and Spiti district was formed in 1960 and it was included in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh in 1966. Travelers can explore the rich history as well as tribal Buddhist culture here. The monasteries of this place are rich repositories of ancient murals, thankas, woodcarving, and golden images of Padmasambhava.

  • Astrophotography: The place is ideal for astrophotography and imaging of celestial events of the night sky, as the place is remote with very high altitude, and isolated by mountain ranges. Also, the place is a light pollution-free zone. The crystal clear view of the night skies makes the place perfect for stargazing. The place will also keep you busy with capturing splendid photos of mountains using the wide-angle lens. The monasteries are also very picturesque.

  • Wildlife: Spiti Valley is very famous among wildlife enthusiasts for snow leopard expeditions. December to March is the best season for that. High above the remote valley, Himalayan Ibex, Himalayan Blue Sheep, Red fox & Himalayan Snow Cock can also be found. Spiti Valley has become a distinctive destination for snow leopard watchers from all around the world nowadays.

  • Festivals: During the famous fair, held in the 3rd week of August, ‘Ladarcha Fair’, a large number of visitors come here. This event is a commercial festival where traders come from places like Tibet, Ladakh, Kulu, and Kinnaur to sell woolen clothes, dry fruit, etc. During the time of this fair, visiting Kaza will add some additional flavor to the trip. A few other festivals and fairs are Fagli, Gochi, the harvest festival, the Festival of Light, the Pauri Fair, the Tribal Fair, and the Tsheshu Fair.

  • Cuisines: Coming on to cuisine, foods are a little expensive. But then Chinese foods like thukpa, noodles, and momos are very delicious. Falafel or hummus can be tried and it is made with black peas. Cheese-potato-herb momos or keu (wholewheat pasta) with a peppery cheese sauce and seasonal veggies are a few good options available here. Café Zomsa, Park View Restaurant (Old Kaza), Sachin Kunga Restaurant (Old Kaza), Raangyul Café, Sol Café (Main Bazaar area, Kaza), and Hotel Deyzor Restaurant are a few notable names for eating out.

  • Unique Music: Lastly, coming on the music, Tibetan chanting, and Buddhist monastic prayer with the rhythmic sound of Dungchen or Tibetan Long Horn, the cloud-shaped gong, the Choe-Nga or Ritual Drum, the Ritual Kar-dung (original horn trumpet) will give you very unique melodious experience.

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