This post is in continuation with a previous one and a part of my Spiti Valley Travelogue. We traveled from Delhi to Kaza in 6 days, with stops at Narkanda, Sarahan, Chitkul, Kalpa, and Nako on the way. We stayed in Kaza on Day 7 and used the day to explore the town, drive from Kaza to Key Monastery and a few other villages. Details of our 7th day of the trip are provided in this article. If you want to read the previous parts of the travelogue, please click on the link below.
Journey so Far: Nako to Kaza – From Upper Kinnaur to Spiti Valley
Kaza is the biggest town and headquarters of Spiti Valley and as such, it is the center of all activities. It looks like just another small town with a lot of houses, hotels, streets, markets, and so on and so forth. What It does not look like at all is a tourist town. Except for the newly built Kaza Monastery and the banks of Spiti River, I do not believe there is much to see or do in Kaza.
But for anyone traveling to Spiti, at least spending one day in Kaza comes highly recommended. What do you do on this day? You spend it exploring the nearby remote villages of Spiti.
Sightseeing in Kaza
For most people, a trip to Spiti Valley means a bike ride on the circuit. They would start from Shimla and exit at Manali; or vice versa. While this is a lot of fun as well, what you do not get to experience this way is the true beauty and the life of the people of Spiti. In my opinion, while traveling like this, you experience the road more than the valley itself.
If I am to be asked, the real beauty of Spiti is in its villages. You got to leave the highway and go where its narrow dirt roads take you. This way, you see landscapes that will leave you in awe. You talk to the local villagers, learn about their lives, listen to their stories and while doing so, collect experiences that will last a lifetime. That was going to be our agenda for this day.
There is an entire belt of villages in the mountains surrounding Kaza. Most of these villages consist of just a handful of houses. Of all, the villages of Kibber, Chicham, Langza, Hikkim, and Komic are probably the most known ones for reasons that I will further cover in the article.
A few other villages that are worth visiting are Lhalung, Demul, Mane or the 17 villages of Pin Valley but to explore all of them, you would need to spend at least 4-5 days in Kaza. Since we were short on time and only had a day to spare, we decided to cover the closest and most famous villages that could be covered in a day.
Kaza to Key Monastery
The first destination of the day was Key Monastery, located about 15 kilometers from Kaza. This monastery is the largest one in all of Spiti and is also a training center for Lamas. It is built in a fort-like style on top of a small mountain and is among the must-visit places of Spiti Valley. For more details, please read How to Plan a Visit to Key Monastery.
For some reason, both Narender and I got up really early. By really early, I mean at 5 AM and after that, we just could not go back to sleep. We were staying in a small homestay and there was no TV in the room either. So we just waited for the sun to come up and when it did we decided to hit the road so we could cover as much as we could.
We stepped out at around 6.30 AM. It was a very cold morning. The owner of our homestay was still fast asleep and so was half of Kaza. So when we started from Kaza to Key Monastery, we started without any breakfast or even a cup of tea.
We reached the Monastery shortly as the sun was just coming up. To our surprise, there was absolutely no one around and the door of the monastery was still closed. We were there a little too early and could do nothing but wait. We found a spot to sit with some sunlight and waited for the monastery to open.
Key Monastery to Kibber
After a while, we saw a Lama walking by and asked him when the monastery would open. He told us that it usually opens at 7 AM but there was some prayer happening that day due to which, the monastery will remain closed till 9 AM.
We looked at our watches. It was 7.30 AM and we were in no mood to sit there for another 90 minutes. So we decided to cover Key Monastery on our way back and started towards Kibber.
Kibber Village is located about 22 kilometers from Kaza and 7 kilometers from Key Monastery. This village is best known for Marine fossils that are found here in ample amount. There is also a wildlife reserve near the village known as Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary is home to several rare animals including the elusive Snow Leopard. For more details, please read How to reach Kibber Village and What to See.
We reached Kibber around 9 in the morning. By then, we were both hungry. So the first villager we came across was presented with the question of where we could get something to eat. He pointed us to a small restaurant and that is where we finally had our breakfast; on the roof of a small eatery with an awesome view.
I asked the restaurant owner about the Marine fossils and he showed us some. I am not really sure what I was expecting to see but I was definitely disappointed with what I saw. Those fossils turned out to be nothing more than what looked like a few prints on a rock; like someone had carved flowers on a stone. I could tell that he was expecting me to buy some but I just wasn’t too eager to spend money on a few rocks.
Kibber to Chicham
Nonetheless, we spend some time at the restaurant enjoying the amazing view from its roof. The owner suggested that while we were there, we may want to visit the next village, Chicham, a few kilometers ahead of Kibber.
This log is of my very first trip to Spiti Valley, over a decade ago. There is a gorge, a canyon by the name of ‘Samba Lamba Nallah’ that runs between the villages of Kibber and Chicham. Back then, there was no bridge on it and absolutely no way that a vehicle could drive from Kibber to Chicham; or vice versa. The only way to move between the two villages was via a small trolley like arrangement known as Kibber Chicham Ropeway. Let me post a picture of the gorge.
Since we could not actually go the the village, we just rode my Enfield to the end of the road and saw Chicham from over a distance.
Now there is a bridge between the two roads known as Chicham Bridge which was inaugurated on 15th Aug 2017. The bridge is 114 meters long and was built with an estimated cost of Rs. 485.5 Lacs. It is often credited as Asia’s Highest Bridge which is actually incorrect. What it certainly is, however, is a marvelous sight and definitely worth a trip while you were in Spiti Valley. To know more, please read How to Plan a Visit to Chicham Village.
Chicham to Gette
We viewed Chicham, came back to Kibber and then started backtracking towards Kaza. On the way, I noticed a different road going towards a village called Tashigang. This was not really on my plans and honestly, I did not even know of this village back then. Only Kibber was on my itinerary.
But since we had the entire day in our hands to roam around, we turned on that road and decided to go see Tashigang as well. Gette was the first village we arrived at.
There was nothing that stood out about Gette. It was only a group of about 10 houses in the middle of nowhere but the scenery around it was simply amazing.
Gette to Tashigang
After a short break, we continued on our way to Tashigang and arrived there after a short ride of 5 kilometers. There was nothing to see in Tashigang as well except for the scenery. We just sat down on top of a small hill and gazed on the amazing landscape in front of our eyes.
I think we sat there talking for almost half an hour. A few village kids came to where we were and started observing my motorcycle and Nikon DSLR with interest.
Tashigang to Key Monastery
After a little while, we again rode back down to Key Monastery and thankfully, it was open this time. We parked our bike in the parking area and entered the monastery.
The greatest thing about Key Gompa is its location and architecture. The monastery consists of three floors. The first one is mostly underground and is used as storage. The ground floor has the assembly hall and living quarters of the monks. The first floor has other temples and places of worship as well as a library. The walls of the monastery are beautifully decorated with paintings and murals.
After spending some time at the monastery, we came back down to the Kaza Manali Highway. Now it was time to take a different road from here, the one that goes towards Langza, Hikkim, and Komic villages.
Journey Ahead: Sightseeing in Hikkim, Langza and Komic
Please click on the link above to continue reading the next part of this travelogue. I hope the the information above on Kaza to Key Monastery and other villages was of help. If you have any questions, or need any other details, please feel free to ask in the comments section below, or at our Community Forum, and I will be glad to answer.