Enigmatic and enchanting are the two words that I use most to describe Spiti valley. It is a magical place indeed, full of wonders that are capable of inspiring awe out of anyone. The gradual transformation of vistas from lush green valleys of Kullu and Kinnaur to a barren wasteland of Lahaul & Spiti is magnificent. The experience of traveling on non-existent adventurous roads is beyond description. It is a journey that is a destination in itself. Every minute on the watch, every turn on the road will present you with something new. However there are a few places that are more capable of catching the eye than others, highlights of the journey that can be termed as tourist attractions In Spiti Valley. In this article, I will list down such places which in my opinion should be on “must see” list of anyone traveling towards Spiti.
Tourist Attractions In Spiti Valley & Its Vicinity
The most common way of completing a trip to Spiti valley is to start from Shimla and exit at Manali. I will cover this article the same way; starting from Shimla and listing down all tourist places in Spiti, gradually moving forward towards Manali. I am not keeping this article limited to only a handful of places within Spiti valley, but all tourist attractions on the circuit including Kinnaur, Spiti and Lahaul valleys. I will break it down in two parts; first part covering the particular famed spots and second part listing down all major towns / villages on the way.
Shimla: This will be the starting point of your journey and needs no introduction. Being the capital city of Himachal Pradesh, it is the headquarters for several administration works and one of the most popular hill stations of our country. Some of the main tourist attractions of Shimla are the
- Main shopping street known as “The Mall”
- Christ Church: Second oldest church in Northern India, situated on The Ridge
- Jakhu Hill: The highest peak around Shimla, at a height of 8,000 ft, offering a magnificent view of the valley around.
- Shimla State Museum: Full of several ancient artifacts displaying the cultural wealth of Himachal Pradesh
- Statue of Lord Hanuman at Jakhu Hill: This 108 feet tall statue stands at a height of 8,500 ft above sea level
Presidential retreat at Mashobra: One of the two presidential retreats of our country is located in Mashbora; other one being in Secunderabad. Once every year, office of the President of India shifts here for some time.
Himalayan Wildlife Zoo at Kufri: It hosts several rare antelopes, felines and birds including the Himalayan Monal, the state bird of Himachal Pradesh.
Hatu Peak: Located near Narkanda and at a height of 12,000 feet, Hatu peak it is the highest summit in Shimla Narkanda region. Surrounded by dense forest, it presents an eagle eye view of the entire valley around and is also a good sunrise or sunset point.
The peak is about a 7 kilometers drive on a narrow road from Narkanda. You can take your car or motorcycle all the way up to the peak. There is a temple at the summit known as Hatu temple and dedicated to Mandodari, wife of Rawan.
Sutlej View Point: A few kilomters after Narkanda, you will get your first view of River Sutej. The place where ITBP has put up a board as “Sutlej View Point” is a good spot for photography.
Bhimakali Temple: Located at Sarahan, this beautiful temple is dedicated to the mother goddess Bhimakali.
Sarahan Pheasantry: Also known as Sarahan Bird Sanctuary, this park is worth a visit. It hosts Monal, the state bird of Himachal Pradesh and a few other rare birds. Please note that the sanctuary remains closed from July to September for Bird mating season. If you are traveling in any month apart from these three, a visit is highly recommended.
Karchham Dam: A huge dam on river Sutlej located near Karchham. The Dam in itself presents quite a view.
Nages God Temple: A temple located in Sangla dedicated to Nages God.
Kamru Fort: Located in Sangla, it is one of the oldest forts in Himachal Pradesh.
Baspa River: As you travel through Baspa valley towards Sangla and Chitkul, you will be driving right next to River Baspa flowing through a lush green valley.
Kinnaur Kailash: Also known as Kinner Kailash, It is a mountain considered holy by both Hindus and Buddhists. The best view of this mighty peak is from Kalpa, especially at sunrise. A trek goes to the top of this peak through Charang La and is considered one of the toughest treks in Himachal Pradesh.
Shipki La: This will be your first high altitude pass of the journey if you can somehow by miracle manage to get permits to visit here. No civilian is allowed towards this pass at all. At an elevation of 18,599 ft, it is as of now the highest motorable pass in India, and probably in the world as well but that claim is anyways always disputed. To reach here, you need to leave the highway and go about 30 odd kilometers uphill just before Khab Bridge.
Reo Purgyil: At an elevation of 22,362 ft, it is the highest peak in all of Himachal Pradesh. You can get a good view of the peak from Khab Bridge if the weather is clear. If not from Khab Bridge, you will have to go up to Namgia village to get a clear view. Nako Village is located on the slopes of this mountain.
Confluence of Spiti & Sutlej Rivers: Just before Kazigs, you will come across the confluence of two mighty rivers, Sutlej and Spiti. A beautiful spot as these two rivers merge to become one.
Kazigs: Also known as Ka Loops, it is a series of hairpin bends before the village of Nako. These are quite similar to what you will see at Gata Loops while driving to Ladakh. One by one you climb up the loops and vistas keep getting better and the road below too looks quite scenic, like a crawling snake.
Nako Lake: A small man-made lake in the village of Nako. It is not much to look at during day time but try some photography around the lake at either dusk or dawn and you will be able to get some good shots.
Nako Monastery: It is an 11th century ancient monastery located in the village of Nako.
Malling Nallah: I am adding this as a tourist attraction but it is actually not. Mallling Nallah is an infamous stretch, a dreaded one for that matter. When in its full flow, getting across this nallah can make your heart jump into your mouth.
The Mummy of Spiti Valley: Yes you read it right. There is an actual mummy in Gue, a small village in Spiti. This mummy is considered to be over 500 years old and attracts quite a few tourists each year. Click on the link below to read about the mummy in detail. To reach here though, you will have to leave the highway and take a turn towards Gue, about 8 kilometers from the main road. After visiting the Mummy, you will come back to the highway and continue further.
Tabo Monastery: An ancient monastery believed to be over a thousand years old and one of the holiest. Many priceless collections of scroll paintings, manuscripts, well-preserved statues, frescos and extensive murals can be found here.
Dhankar Monastery: Also known as Dhangkar Gompa, it is an ancient monastery built on a 1000 foot high cliff overlooking the confluence of Spiti and Pin Rivers. Apart from its heritage, this monastery is also famous for this spectacular setting. “Dhang” means cliff and “Kar” means fort, hence the literal name of the place is “Fort on a cliff”.
Confluence of Spiti and Pin Rivers: A beautiful sight as both these rivers merge into each other at the small village of Dhankar.
Tangyud Monastery: It is one of the highest altitude monasteries in India, located on the edge of a deep canyon and overlooking the town of Kaza. It is built like a fortified castle in the small village of Komic (or Komik), at a distance of about 5 kilometers from Kaza.
Key Monastery: Also known as Kye Gompa, it is one of the largest monasteries in Spiti valley that also serves as a training centre for Lamas. It is believed to be over a thousand years old and has a vast collection of ancient murals and books.
Marine Fossils: Nearby Kaza, the small villages of Kibber, Langza and Komik are famous for some ancient fossils that can be found here. It is not however something that you will come across at random. Villagers here keep these fossils to show and also to sell. Do not expect something amazing though, these fossils are more or less just some rocks with weird looking prints on them.
Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary: It was established in 1992, is India’s only wildlife sanctuary in cold desert and is home to several rare animals like Ibex, Blue Sheep, Red Fox, Tibetan woolly hare, Himalayan wolf, lynx, pika, Tibetan wild ass.
The most famous of all however is Snow Leopard. Kibber is located on the outer limits of the sanctuary and becomes a base in winters for people interested in spotting this rare, shy and beautiful large cat. It is also the base for the trek to Mount Kanamo.
Kunzum Pass: Your first high altitude pass of the journey, unless you have somehow managed to climb up to Shipki La in which case Kunzum will be your second. Connecting the valleys of Lahaul and Spiti, this pass is at an elevation of 4,590 meters, higher than Rohtang La. It remains closed from late October until early June.
Chandratal: A beautiful lake which is also the origin point of river Chandrabhaga. If you can manage to be around here after sunset, it is a perfect place for capturing some magnificent late night shots. This small lake is one of the key highlights of the journey to Spiti valley and a perfect camping spot. There is also a legend associated with this lake. Click at the link below to read in detail.
Batal: Gramphoo stretch: Another addition which is not really a tourist attraction but more or less a pain area in the journey. However, if you are of the adventure sort then driving on this small stretch of nightmarish road will be a journey you will remember. It has everything to make your life hell, from numerous water crossings, to slush, to rocks; put it all together and you are in for an adventurous joy ride.
Rohtang La: The mighty Rohtang La, the spot where you will cross over to Manali and finish your Spiti journey. The name of this pass literally means “a pile of corpses” which I believe attributes to the fact that a lot of people died while crossing it in ancient times. Expect to find snow at the top no matter which month you are traveling in. The vistas around from the top of the pass and even on the ascent/descent are quite breathtaking.
Tourist Places in Spiti Valley
Below is a list of all the towns & villages that you will be crossing while traveling from Shimla to Kaza or Vice Versa. Some of these places are off the main highway but none is way too far except for Chitkul for which you are required to take a diversion from Karchham.
Mashobra: A popular hill station noted for housing one of the two Presidential retreats in India, Wildflower Hall at Chharabra and Carignano, a beautiful picnic spot.
Kufri: Famous for its popular ski track and a Himalayan wild life zoo; hosting rare antelopes, felines and birds including the Himalayan monal, the state bird of Himachal Pradesh.
Fagu: Another small hill station, known for its natural beauty.
Theog: Another small village en-route, known for its scenic location.
Narkanda: A major tourist spot known for its natural beauty and the nearby Hatu Peak. The place also has religious importance because of the Hatu Temple located at top of Hatu Summit. A lot of people break their journey at Narkanda for first day. There are several hotels here.
Rampur: Another major town on the route. Several hotels, petrol pump and mechanics available here.
Jeori: A small town from where you take the road that goes uphill towards Sarahan.
Sarahan: A beautiful place noted for its scenic beauty, Bhimakali temple and Sarahan Bird Sanctuary. A perfect spot to break your journey on 2nd day.
Karchham: A small town noted for the huge dam built on River Sutlej. This is also the place where a road towards Sangla and Chitkul bifurcates.
Sangla: A beautiful small town in Baspa valley. There are several hotels and an ATM here. Lot of tourists would prefer staying here rather than Chitkul.
Chitkul: One of the most beautiful hill stations I have ever been to. The entire setting of this village is just beautiful with peaks arising on three sides and River Baspa flowing down through the village. A perfect spot for some landscape and nature photography. Your cell phone will not work here but a satellite pay phone is available here to make calls. You can halt here for the night on 3rd day of your journey.
Reckong Peo: A major town on the way towards Spiti. It is more of an Army base and has several hotels, a gas station and ATMs. Foreign tourists need to obtain a permit from here before traveling any further towards Spiti.
Kalpa: A small town about 10 kilometers from Reckong Peo, noted for the magnificent view of Kinner Kailash peaks from here. Several budget hotels here and you can stay here on 4th day. This also will probably be the last town where you phone will work flawlessly, no matter which network you are on. As you cross Kalpa and continue towards Puh, your phone services will be a come and go before it completely dies.
Powari: A small village but there is petrol pump here in case you need to tank up.
Pooh: Also known as Puh, Poo and Spuwa, it is a small town noted for an ancient temple, the Lotsaba-bai-lha-khang, dedicated to Shakyamuni or Lord Buddha. Foreigners will be required to submit their permits here.
Akpa: There was a major landslide here in 1995 that claimed lives of over a 100 people including soldiers post which the Akpa Bridge was constructed.
Nako: Small village en-route noted for Nako Lake and Nako Monastery. If you are staying here for the night, try trekking a bit uphill and you will get a magnificent view of the green village amidst barren hills, a good spot for photography. Trekking up, you will also get an amazing sunset view. Perfect place to break your 5th day journey. If you are on a BSNL network, there is a high chance that you may get connectivity at Nako. Once you start descending towards Tabo, network will be gone for good until Kaza.
Sumdo: This is the village where Kinnaur valley ends and you enter the beautiful Spiti valley. Foreigners will be required to submit their permits at the check post here.
Kaurik: A few kilometers after Sumdo, a road on your right will take you uphill to what was once a small village of Kaurik. This entire village was washed out in flash floods in early 90s and no one has lived here ever since. Now all that remains are ruins of what were once homes. The road will end a little before the village and you will have to walk the last few kilometers. However, a permit is required to go to this village and even for this; the situation is pretty much same as Shipki La. It is next to impossible to get a permit for Kaurik because the Tibet border is just a few kilometers ahead of this place.
Gue: A small village about 8 kilometers from Shimla – Kaza highway, noted for a 500 year old mummy that was found and still located here.
Tabo: Tabo is famous for its monastery which is over a thousand years old and believed to be one of the holiest. The Dalai Lama himself has expressed his desire to live in Tabo after he retires.
Dhankar: Also known as Dhangkar, this place is noted for its ancient monastery and Dhankar Lake and confluence of Spiti and Pin rivers.
Kaza: Headquarters of Spiti valley, Kaza serves as base camp for trekking, mountaineering and tours directed to other parts of the valley. There is a fuel station here, several hotels, banks and a large hospital. It is the largest township and commercial center of Spiti valley.
Kibber: Also spelled as Kyibar, this village is located at a distance of about 16 kilometers from Kaza and is at an elevation of 4,270 meters (14,010 ft). It comprises of about 80 odd houses and has facilities like electricity, a civil dispensary, school and post office. Apart from the natural beauty of the place, this village is best known for a wildlife reserve known as Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary.
Komik: Also known as Kaumik and Komic, this small village is located within a short distance from Kaza. The name Komik literally means “Eye of the Snow Cock”. Located about 18 kilometers from and at an altitude of 15,027 feet, it is often called as highest village in the world or highest motorable village in the world, a claim which is of course disputed.
Gette / Tashigang / Langza / Hikkim: All these are small villages located at a small distance from the town of Kaza. An untarred road leads to these villages and a day visit is recommended. You may spend a night here but in order to do that, you must first arrange for your accommodation. There are no hotels in these villages and you will have to stay as a paying guest. If you are carrying a BSNL phone, you will get connectivity here.
Losar: Last village before you start climbing up Kunzum Pass. If you have a BSNL phone, there is a high chance that you may get connectivity here as well.
Batal: Just a small setting of Chadar tents and Dhabas that you will come across. There is however the facility of a satellite pay phone at one of the Dhabas in case you need to make any urgent calls.
Gramphoo: This is where the road from Spiti Valley merges with the Manali Leh highway and you will take the turn towards Rohtang top. There is a slight chance that your phone may work here if you are on BSNL or Airtel network.
Marhi: A group of restaurants as you start to descend towards Manali. It is a good place to eat if you are hungry.
Manali: And your journey finally ends at Manali, one of the most popular tourist destinations of our country which is also commonly terms as “honeymoon” spot of India.
I hope this information on tourist attractions in Spiti valley was helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below and I would be glad to answer.