Astounding Himalayas

by SumitVashisht /
SumitVashisht's picture
Apr 19, 2009 / 3 comments

Do you want to have the Moon as your next holiday destination, Yes? But sorry you cannot go there. Right? Ok, then take my suggestion and go to Spiti Valley.  A drive of 350 km from Shimla through breathtaking scenery of Himalayan landscapes takes you to Spiti Valley. After crossing Narkanda, 64 km, and then driving opposite of River Satluj from near Rampur, 130 km, you stop for a night each at Sarhan, Kalpa and Pooh. Then you cross a bridge at Khaab where river Spiti meets Satluj. Now you are in Spiti Valley. Astounding, right? You may not be able to blink your eyes as the barren landscape, here, keeps you hold your tongue and your eyes wide open. You are above the tree line and standing at the elevation of nearly 13000 feet.

Spiti valley shares its borders with Tibbet, so has the Tibbetian influence with the oldest ‘Gompa’ - the Monastery called Tabo, famous as Ajanta of Himalayas. Tabo was established in 996 AD by a Tibetan Scholar Lotsawa Rinchen Tsang Po. He travelled all the way form Lhasa and established this monastery here in order to translate Indian Buddhist scripture to Tibetan Language. It holds the second position only to the Tholing Gompa in Tibet in the entire Himalayan region. It was developed as an advanced centre for learning by the great teacher and translator, the king of western Himalayan Kingdom of Guge -- also known as Lha Lama Yeshe O'd or Mahaguru Ratnabhadra. The Chos-Khor at Tabo remained one of the most important Buddhist establishments during the time of Lotsawa after the Chos-Khor at Tholing, the capital town of Guge. To date, it is the preserver of the Buddhist Legacy and is one of the most important Gompa of the entire Tibetan Buddhist world.

Every Morning a ‘Traditional Puja’ is performed here by the Buddhist Monks who live in the complex. A guest house, in the monastery, provides accommodation to the travelers at very cheap rates. Tabo is also famous for its 700 to 900 years old wall paintings, still preserved and they depict the meaning of Buddhism. Old scriptures are still preserved in the Monastery. Nearly 36 almost life-size clay statues perch on the walls of the assembly hall. Here again, the temple complex is a National Historic treasure of India and protected as such by the Archaeological Survey of India. Next morning you drive to Kaza but do not forget to visit Dhankar Monastery on the way. The drive is through the breathtaking landscape and the effects of the air erosion can be seen all over here on the slopes and river side. A number of rocks have been carved, by air, to take a pointed shape. Take right from Shichiling and ascend towards Dhakanr Gompa. Dhankar means "A place in the mountains unreachable for strangers" Dhankar was traditional Capital of Spiti valley kingdom during 17th century and is set picturesquely on a clay hill above Shichiling village. There is a castle on the hill top, which was once under rule of Spiti kings. The Dhankar monastery belongs to Gelugspa School of order. Set against a lunar landscape of crumbling cliffs, the ' Lha - Opa Gompa' dates back to the 12th century. It has over 150 monks, some fascinating 'Thangka' sculptures and a statue of the 'Dhyan Buddha'. Some of the Gompas were destroyed during a particularly harsh winter in 1989. The present monastery is under threat of the geographical calamities so the monks are fighting to save it.

A further drive form Dhankar takes you to Lalung Village where a small monastery in Lingti Valley is situated built nearly 600 years ago. Lhalung Gonpa was certainly founded by Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo in 10th century, as there are signs of Lotsava's paintings in the Serkhang. From here, to stay overnight, Kaza is your next destination. Kaza, a small town that saw development recently and still improving, is the headquarter of Spiti valley and has a number of hotels, guest houses, a bazaar, a petrol pump, all kinds of low budget restaurants, cyber café, telephone shops and vehicle repair shops. The old houses here are getting buried under the new concrete construction and a rain fed stream that flows through the town towards Spiti River to its south, when dried is full of plastic and other kind of rubbish. It has the influence of the empty packets of junk food, empty bottles of mineral water and soft drinks and other non bio degradable material. If you want to enjoy the most breathtaking Moonlike landscaping, a half days visit to the villages of Komic, Langcha and Damul should not be skipped at any cost. Here you are at the elevation of 5487 meters and would be astounded to see people living here. Locales work in their field where they grow pea crop and village boys run towards you with age old fossils in their hands. They intend to sell them to you as a negotiable cost but it is requested not to buy them as this way you take an essential part of the wealth of this area, away.  While visiting Kaza one can enjoy a trip to Kibber Sanctuary. This sanctuary is about 20 Km away from Kaza and is linked with road via Lalung, Langcha & Kibber village. One can see herds of Blue Sheep, Ibex and panoramic views of Shila Peak, Parang La & many other enchanting views of sanctuary. On way to Kibber one must enjoy the glimpse of famous Ki Gompa.

Kibber sanctuary is the only sanctuary in the country which is situated in the cold desert area. The sanctuary is covering an area of 1400.5 sq km. There are about 13 villages situated outside the periphery of the sanctuary. Only two households in one village Kibber exist inside the sanctuary area. Just above the, on a hill, village Langcha there is a small monastery and the view of peak ChaoChao dominates the entire region. Next to the Monastery a huge statue of meditating Buddha has been established. The barren landscape has some rare medicinal plants such as Junglee Lahsun, Ratanjot and Ginger.  Next morning a full day drive takes you to to Manali over Kunzon Pass (4600 meter) and Rohtang Pass (4090 meter). Before you ascend the Kunzum Pass declare your passport at Losar. On top of the pass there is a temple of Goddess Kunzuma. Everyone must register his/her presence here at the temple. You try to stick a coin to the idol of the goddess and if you are a clean hearted fellow the coin sticks to it. From here starts the trek to Chandertal - The Moonlake, 9 km. A dust road good enough for small jeep can also take you to Chandertal from the other side of the pass. You must have your tents with you, in case you plan to stay there overnight.

Manali is busy town that survives on tourists completely, Indians and foreigners as well. This is full of life’s humdrum and offers all quality hotels, restaurants, bus station, taxies, airport that is 50 km away, rafting, bazaars, sightseeing, clubhouse and much more.

Comments (3)

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    15 years 1 week ago

    thank you so much for sharing this! i've always wanted to head to the himalayas. 


    Jessie Voigts, PhD


  • Dr. Debra Payne

    15 years 6 days ago

    I've always wanted to go there, too! Thanks for the excellent description.....


    Debra Payne Chaparro, PhD

  • SumitVashisht

    15 years 5 days ago

    Sumit Vashisht


    You may get in touch with me at [email protected] in case you require any other information about your trip to the himalayas. I organise adventure trips to the Hidden Valleys of Western Himalayas, such as Jeep Safari, Monastery Tours, Trekking, Cycle Tours and Camping Holidays.


    All the best


    Sumit Vashisht


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