Lahaul Spiti

Lahaul Spiti

Lahaul-Spiti (more information on http://LahaulSpitiTravel.com)is the fourth least populous district in India and consists of two formerly separate districts of Lahaul and Spiti. It’s administrative centre is Keylong. Before the merger of two districts were merged, Kardang was the capital of Lahaul, and Dhankar the capital of Spiti. This district is connected to Manali through the Rohtang Pass. Another important pass is Kunzum La ( 4551 m) which is the entrance to Spiti Valley from Lahaul. The southern limit of Spiti is at Sumdo, 24 km from Tabo where the road enters Kinnaur and merges with National Highway No. 22.

Weather and Geography Lahaul Spiti Map

Lahaul and Spiti are mostly quite dry with minimal rainfall, though Spiti is the drier place with lesser amount of rainfall. Average annual rainfall is just 170 mm. Average elevation of Spiti is 4270 m while that of Lahaul is around 3400 m. It is also comparatively greener and more fertile Highest mountain pass in Kunzum La at 4551 m while the highest peak is Gya at 6,794 m.

The whole are is enclosed between high mountain ranges which remain covered with snow and glaciers for most part of the year. Most prominent river is Spiti which exits the valley from south-east to merge with Sutlej.

Transport in Lahaul Spiti

The only mode of transport for Lahaul Spiti is road. You can enter Lahaul district via Roahtang Pass in Kullu district and Spiti valley through Sumdo in Kinnaur district. The nearest airport is Bhunat airport at Kullu. Nearest railway stations are Shimla, Chandigarh and Jogindernagar,

  • Route from Shimla to Kaza – 412 km, all weather road. Approximate driving time is around 20 hours with one night halt.
  • Route from Shimla to Keylong  – 375 km, closed during winters when Rohtang pass is closed.
  • Route from Keylong to Kaza – 185 km, closed for 7-8 months when Kunzum Pass is closed. Opens mid June till October.

Flora and Fauna

Lahaul Spiti wildlife

Lahaul Spiti wildlife

Due to increasing human presence, native animals and plants of the fragile region are under considerable pressure and populations of wild animals have seen a marked decrease. Nevertheless, one can spot some extremely rare wild animals like snow leopards, Tibetan antelope, argali, kiangs and musk deer. It is possible to spot brown bears, foxes, ibex and snow leopard during winter season.

Only a few hardy plants and bushes grow at this altitude and snowline starts at 5000 m. Most of the plants grow below 4000 m and some of them are used as fuel, fodder and medicines by the locals. There are a large number of wild flowers and herbs like  Seseli trilobum, Crepis flexuosa, Caragana brevifolia, Ausinia thomsonii and Krascheninikovia ceratoides among others.

People and Culture

View of Kye monastery from Gete

View of Kye monastery from Gete

Lahaul and Spiti both have very similar people, culture and languages for an outsider, but there are significant differences. People from Lahaul are of Tibetan and Indo-Aryan descent while people of Spiti have much more common with ethnic Tibetans due to closeness. The languages of both regions belong to Tibetan family.

Spiti Bhutia families follow the Tibetan inheritance system. Upon death of both parents, eldest son inherits family property, eldest daughter inherits mother;s jewellery and younger siblings get nothing. Men usually rely on social security system of Trans-Himalayan Gompas.

Lahaulis used to follow polyandry but it’s exceedingly rare now.  Family is headed by Yunda, a senior male member and his oldest wife Yundamo holds similar stature due to her age.

Lifestyle

The basic lifestyles of people in Lahaul and Spiti are very similar owing to  similar weather, terrain conditions. Agriculture, animal husbandry are the main sources of livelihood, but tourism is gaining foothold too.  Other common jobs involve handicrafts, government service and labourers. Farming is mostly limited to vegetables like potatoes, peas, cauliflower etc and wheat in some places.

There are slight differences in house designs but they follow the basic Tibetan architectural style which works well in earthquake prone regions.

Religion

Most people in region follow a mix of Hinduism and Buddhism. But before these two religions, people followed ‘Lung Pe Chhoi’, an animistic religion. It was quite similar to Bön religion of Tibet. Adherents of Bön religion regularly offered animal and human sacrifices to spirits of the natural world.

In Lahaul, most people follow Tibetan Buddhism of Drukpa Kagyu order. Apart from that, there are  temples such as Trilokinath where pilgrims worship god in certain manifestations in form of Shiva and Avalokiteshvara. Spitian Bhotias mostly follow Tibetan Buddhism of the Gelugpa order. There are a number of Buddhist monasteries in the region such as Ki, Kaza, Tabo among others.

Festivals

There are quite a few local festivals and fairs celebrated at different times among different communities in Lahaul Spiti. One of the most popular festivals is Losar or Halda festival celebrated in January and February. It’s exact date is decide by the Lamas and most rituals closely resemble the Tibetans. People pray to  Shiskar Apa,  (other name Vasudhara), goddess of wealth and a communal bonfire is lit.

Another popular festival is Fagli celebrated between February and March in Lahaul. It is the New Year’s festival and follows beginning of Tibetan calendar.

Tourism Activities in Lahaul Spiti

Chandrataal Lake, Spiti

Chandrataal Lake, Spiti

Lahaul Spiti is fast becoming a very popular destination for tourists. Since the terrain is a lot like Laddakh, a lot of people who want something similar are now visiting Lahaul Spiti for sightseeing, camping, hiking, trekking, mountain climbing and pilgrimage. The only limitation is the cold weather which allows roads to be open only between mid-June and October.

Trekking and Camping:

For people who love camping and trekking, Lahaul Spiti is a great destination with many unexplored places. There are also a lot of options of village to village treks almost all over the region. Some of the more popular trekking routes are Hampta Pass trek, Pin Parvati Pass, Bhabha Pass, Kaza-Kunzum tre and shorter hikes like Kunzum- Chandrataal Lake hike, Gete-Kibber hike and many others. There are almos a few popular camping sites like Chnadrataal Lake, Hikkim, Kibber and a few others.

Mountain Climbing:

Lahaul Spiti has a large number of mountain peaks which are worth climbing and most of them have never been conquered yet. But mountain climbing is still picking up steam slowly. There are a large number of peaks of height 5000 m and more which will prove to be big attractions once more mountaineers take notice.

Buddhist Monasteries

Spiti is a very important Buddhist place with a number of ancient monasteries (Gompas) with their unique history and designs. Some of more important Gompas are in Kye, Tabo, Dhankar, Keylong and Kardang. Each of these monasteries has it’s unique character, significance and are important Buddhist pilgrimage and spiritual sites.

Apart from these, a interesting place to visit is the world’s highest post office in Hikkim at an altitude of 4400 m. You can send a postcard or a letter from there to yourself or your friends and family.

Lahaul Spiti Sample Travel Itineraries:

  1. Chandra Taal To Samudri Taapu Glacier Trek  is a short but tough trek you can undertake in summer season. Samudri Taapu trek starting from Chandra Taal at an altitude of about 4300 m,  is considered a rough terrain trek. Among the many origins of Chandra river, Samudri Taapu is one of them.
  2. Hampta Pass – ChandarTaal Lake Trek (7 Days)  Hampta Pass – Chandra Taal Lake Trek 7 Days Trekkers enjoy many types of terrain in this trek as we go from Hampta Pass in Kullu valley to Chandra Taal Lake in Spiti.
  3. Lahaul Spiti Honeymoon Tour Package This is a special tour package of Lahaul Spiti valley for couples looking for a romantic yet adventurous vacation of a lifetime with each other. It’s an ideal mix of sightseeing, adventure, spirituality and awesome places
  4. Spiritual journey in Lahaul Spiti Lahaul-Spiti, nature’s majestic kingdom in Himachal Pradesh is great for sight seeing but more importantly it is rich in its heritage of spiritual pursuits. Monks from as far as Tibet arrive here to meditate in peace, with nature by their side.
  5. Spiti Road Trip in one week  7 Days Spiti Road Journey If you are looking to explore Spiti in a week, this road trip is the ideal way, as it includes all the important landmarks of the region , quite comfortably and in a short time.
  6. Lahaul Spiti: Custom Travel Package  A vacation not restricted by a schedule is best and most enjoyable ways of travelling in almost any place, which is specially true for Lahaul Spiti valley.
  7. Spiti, Manali, Mcleodganj Travel Package 18 Days  This trip is an ideal vacation package for a long, leisurely yet fun and adventurous journey through mountain ranges of Himalaya as well as Dhauladhar.
  8. Camping near Chandartaal Lake, Spiti  A stupendously breathtaking lake nestled between the mountains of Himalayas is the Chandartaal Lake or Moon Lake. Spread over 4 km and at an altitude of 4300 meters, the lake is breathtakingly beautiful, with extremely clear waters.

 

Information about LAHAUL and SPITI

Rivers and Glaciers

Following is a list of important rivers and glaciers in Lahaul Spiti region:

Rivers:

  • Chandra : Starts from huge snow banks at Baralacha la.
  • Bhaga : Starts from Suraj Taal.
  • Chandrabhaga or Chenab : Formed by merging of Chandra and Bhaga rivers in Lahaul
  • Spiti : Starts from the base of Kunzum range and joins Satluj in Kinnaur.
  • Pin: Lasuma  mountain in the Srikand Range and Bhabha pass
  • Tsarab: Meets with Indus in Zanskar.

Glaciers:

  • Bara Shigri  : This is the largest glacier in region and lies between 3950 m  4570 m. Total lenght 11 km length
  • Gangstang : It’s situated in eastern Lahaul region. Altitude 5,480 m and drains into Shahsha nullah which joins the Chandrabhaga river.
  • Sonapani  : 11 km long glacier which is visible from Rohtang Pass.
  • Perad  : A small glacier near Putiruni.

Government Resources

Following is some information which tourists visiting Lahaul Spiti can use to help them with their travel:
Police Phone Numbers:
Police Station, Keylong Tel: 01900-222223
Police Station, Udaipur Tel: 01909-222210
Police Station, Kaza Tel: 01906-222253

Medical
Civil Hospital Keylong. Phone: OPD  01900-222255. Emergency  01900-222211. Community Health Centres – Udaipur, Shansha, Kaza.
Primary Health Centers – Sissu, Gondhla, Gemur, Tholong, Jhalman, Thirot, Tingret, Tabo, Sagnam
Civil Dispensaries – Darcha, Phura, Kibber, Lossar, Hansa.

Telecommunication
Lahaul Spiti doesn’t have a proper telephone coverage over most of the region except for BSNL mobile and internet coverage in some big settlements like Kaza, Losar etc. Mobile phones of other telecom operators don’t work most of the time. There are satellite phone and internet facilities in some places but don’t depend on them for any emergency.

Rest Houses and Circuit Houses in Lahaul Spiti

Rest House/ Circuit House Location

PWD Division/ Booking Office

STD Code

Phone Number

e-Mail ID

Distance from Booking Office

No. of Suites

New Circuit House at Kaza E.E. Kaza /A.D.C. office Kaza

01906

222252

hp-lsp1@nic.in

01.50

10

Old Circuit House at Kaza E.E. Kaza /A.D.C. office Kaza

01906

222252

hp-lsp1@nic.in

01.00

4

Class-III Rest House at Kaza E.E. Kaza /A.D.C. office Kaza

01906

222252

hp-lsp1@nic.in

00.50

3

Old Rest House at Lossar E.E. kaza /A.D.C. office Kaza

01906

222252

hp-lsp1@nic.in

56.00

2

New Rest House at Lossar E.E. Kaza /A.D.C. office Kaza

01906

222252

hp-lsp1@nic.in

56.00

3

Rest House at Pangmo E.E. Kaza /A.D.C. office Kaza

01906

222252

hp-lsp1@nic.in

24.00

3

Old Rest House at Sagnam E.E. Kaza /A.D.C. office Kaza

01906

222252

hp-lsp1@nic.in

40.00

2

New Rest House at Sagnam E.E. Kaza /A.D.C. office Kaza

01906

222252

hp-lsp1@nic.in

40.00

4

Rest House at Tabo E.E. Kaza /A.D.C. office Kaza

01906

222252

hp-lsp1@nic.in

47.00

5

Rest House at Lari E.E. Kaza /A.D.C. office Kaza

01906

222252

hp-lsp1@nic.in

50.00

3

Rest House at Sumdo E.E. Kaza /A.D.C. office Kaza

01906

222252

hp-lsp1@nic.in

74.00

2

Rest House at Pooh E.E. Kaza /A.D.C. office Kaza

01906

222252

hp-lsp1@nic.in

36.00

3

Rest House at Kungri E.E. Kaza /A.D.C. office Kaza

01906

222252

hp-lsp1@nic.in

34.00

3