The Land of the Lamas and Yaks: Spiti Valley
The cold desert of Himachal Pradesh, Spiti is a world within a world. The breath-taking landscape of the valley is a delight for all those who visit the scenic place. At a height that ranges from 4270 meters to 6000 meters above sea level, the Spiti Valley is accessible from June to October via the Rohtang Pass and Kunzum La with a stopover at Keylong in Lahaul district. For other times in the year, visitors use the all season route via Kinnaur to get to the valley.
The region is covered in brown mud and has sparse vegetation as a result of falling in a rain-shadow area. The Great Himalayas surround the valley with their snow covered tops. This contributes to cold days and chilly nights. Sandstorms are a regular feature in the area.
The six villages that are located in and around the valley have Buddhist monasteries where llamas reside. The monasteries are a tribute to the peoples’ Buddhist way of life. There are also helipads in the villages as ice blocks cut them from the rest of India during winters. These helipads are the only way for the people to get food and other requirements during this time.
The people who live in the Spiti Valley are simple apple cultivators and shepherds. The contentment in their way of life is a hallmark. Every family in the valley owns a yak which is their chief milk supplier. Cheese made of yak milk is a delicacy in the region.
Most of the villagers in the Spiti Valley rent their spare rooms to tourists during summer. The home stays are highly recommended as they offer the visitors an opportunity to spend time with the people and better understand their culture in addition to being affordable and cheap.
A few villages in the valley like Tabo and Kaza have plenty of motels and small hotels. But these work out to be very expensive in comparison to the home stays. Daily buses in the morning and evening operate in the valley ferrying visitors to and fro.
The famous Pin valley national park is located in the Spiti Valley to the south of Dankar however; the route to get there is frozen for most part of the year. The best time to visit the park is from June to October. The park houses a number of endangered species of flora and fauna.
The Spiti River flows throughout the valley and is a great treat for adventure lovers. The river offers white water rafting and kayaking opportunities. The valley is the starting point of many medium and high level treks organized in the Himalayas. And places like Kibber, Kaza and Kai are treasure houses of fossils from pre-historic times.
Foreign visitors to the valley need a permit to enter Spiti and have to register at Sumdo with their passports.
The valley like the rest of Himachal Pradesh has hilarious road signs that make the bumpy, dusty ride along the Himalayan roads, a bitter-sweet experience. The road trip to the Spiti Valley is nonetheless a great experience that adds a new dimension to the beauty of the middle kingdom—Spiti.
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