Lahaul and Spiti, Himachal Pradesh

Lahaul, situated on the Manali-Leh route, is a region of striking contrasts. This picturesque mountainous area comprises charming villages, unique Buddhist art and culture, massive glaciers, and high passes. The term “Lahaul” derives from the Tibetan word “Lho-yul,” which translates to “country in the south” or “country of the gods,” reflecting the region’s rich heritage and traditions.

The land is a peaceful settlement guarded by snow-capped peaks, which stop monsoon rains from the south. However, in the winter, the northerly winds bring heavy snow, creating an awe-inspiring landscape that changes from lush valleys and wooded hillsides to a sandy terrain dotted with small villages clinging precariously to rocky slopes..

Keylong serves as the administrative center of Lahaul, which is known for its rustic charm, vibrant culture, and traditional folk dances and songs, attracting visitors from around the world. Buddhism is prevalent in the region, and it is home to several monasteries that house ancient murals, thangkas, wood carvings, and large statues of Guru Padmasambhava, who introduced Buddhism to Lahaul, Spiti, and Tibet..

Lahaul is greener than neighboring Spiti, nourished by the Chandra and Bhaga rivers and their tributaries, originating on opposite sides of the Baralacha La Pass. At their confluence at Tandi in Pattan Valley, the rivers merge to become the River Chenab, still known as Chandrabhaga traditionally..

Hindi and English are commonly spoken in Lahaul, along with Lahuli (Bhoti), a local dialect. Due to the region’s chilly winds and sudden snow showers, woollen clothing and a heavy rain-proof jacket are essential, even in summer. Temperature changes with altitude, so it is recommended to bring light woollens, caps, and scarves to protect against cold evenings.

Activities in Lahaul and Spiti

Lahaul and Spiti offer a range of activities for tourists, from trekking to exploring ancient monasteries. Here are some popular activities to do in the region:

  • Trekking: The region is a paradise for trekkers. The popular treks include the Pin Parvati Pass Trek, Hampta Pass Trek, and the Chandratal Lake Trek.
  • Sightseeing: The region is home to ancient monasteries such as Key Monastery, Dhankar Monastery, and Tabo Monastery. These monasteries are not only religious sites but also treasure houses of ancient Buddhist art and culture.
  • Camping: The region offers plenty of opportunities for camping. The campsites near Chandratal Lake, Suraj Tal, and Baralacha La Pass are popular among tourists.
  • Adventure sports: Lahaul and Spiti offer adventure sports such as river rafting, skiing, and mountain biking.
  • Cultural experiences: The region is rich in cultural experiences. One can attend a local festival such as Losar or participate in a homestay to experience the local way of life.
  • Wildlife watching: The Pin Valley National Park and the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary are home to rare and endangered species such as the snow leopard, Himalayan ibex, and blue sheep. One can spot these animals on wildlife safaris.
  • Photography: The region is a photographer’s paradise. The dramatic landscapes, pristine lakes, and ancient monasteries make for stunning photographs.

Staying in Lahaul and Spiti

Lahaul and Spiti offer a range of accommodation options to suit various budgets and preferences. The towns of Keylong and Kaza serve as major tourist hubs and have a good number of hotels, guesthouses, and homestays.

In addition to these options, one can also choose to stay in traditional local houses that have been converted into homestays. These accommodations offer a unique opportunity to experience the local culture, food, and lifestyle. Some of these homestays also provide guided tours and trekking facilities.

Camping is also a popular option for those who want to experience the natural beauty of the region up close. Several camping sites are available in the region, and camping equipment can be rented locally.

However, it is advisable to book accommodation in advance, especially during the peak tourist season of June to September, as the region experiences a surge in tourist footfall during this time.

How To Get There

Lahaul and Spiti are both located in the northernmost part of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The region is relatively remote and not easily accessible, but there are still several ways to get there:

By Road

The most common way to get to Lahaul and Spiti is by road. There are two routes to get there – one from Manali and the other from Shimla. The Manali-Leh Highway (NH-3) is open from June to October and connects Manali to Leh via Keylong in Lahaul. The Shimla-Kinnaur-Spiti road (NH-5) is open from May to November and connects Shimla to Kaza in Spiti.

By Air

he nearest airport is Bhuntar Airport near Kullu, which is about 250 km from Lahaul and Spiti. However, there are limited flights to this airport, and the frequency of flights may be affected by weather conditions. Another option is the Jubbarhatti Airport

By Air

The nearest railway stations are Chandigarh and Pathankot. From there, you can take a taxi or bus to reach Manali or Shimla, from where you can continue your journey by road.

It’s important to note that the roads to Lahaul and Spiti are narrow and winding, and the high altitude can cause altitude sickness, so it’s recommended to plan your journey carefully and take necessary precautions.

Buddhist monasteries in Lahaul and Spiti

Lahaul and Spiti valleys are known for their rich Buddhist heritage and culture. These valleys are home to some of the most important Buddhist monasteries in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

  • Kye Monastery is the oldest and largest monastery in Spiti. It is a major learning center for Buddhist studies and has around 100 resident monks. The monastery is adorned with rare paintings and scriptures of Buddha and other deities. It also houses ancient musical instruments like trumpets, cymbals, and drums.
  • Tabo Monastery, located at an altitude of 3050 meters, is often called the ‘Ajanta of the Himalayas’. It was founded by Richen Zangpo and is home to over 60 lamas. The monastery is famous for its collection of rare scriptures, pieces of art, and wall paintings including Thankas and Stucco. It celebrated its thousandth year of existence in 1996 and has a modern guest house with amenities.
  • Kardang Monastery, built in the 12th century, is located at an elevation of 3500 meters and is situated across the river about 8 km from Keylong. The monastery is well connected by road via the Tandi bridge which is about 14 km from Keylong. It has a large library of Buddhist literature including the main Kangyur and Tangyur scriptures.

Frequently Asked Questions About Lahaul and Spiti

What is Lahaul and Spiti?

Lahaul and Spiti is a district in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It is located in the Himalayas and is known for its rugged landscapes, high-altitude villages, ancient monasteries, and trekking trails.

What is the best time to visit Lahaul and Spiti?

The best time to visit Lahaul and Spiti is from May to October, when the weather is relatively mild and the roads are open. However, if you are interested in winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, the winter months of December to February are ideal.

How do I reach Lahaul and Spiti?

The nearest airport to Lahaul and Spiti is Bhuntar Airport, which is located about 245 km away. The nearest railway station is Joginder Nagar, which is about 160 km away. The district is also accessible by road from major cities like Shimla, Manali, and Chandigarh.

What are the popular tourist attractions in Lahaul and Spiti?

Popular tourist attractions in Lahaul and Spiti include Key Monastery, Tabo Monastery, Kibber Village, Pin Valley National Park, and Chandratal Lake.

What kind of accommodation options are available in Lahaul and Spiti?

Accommodation options in Lahaul and Spiti include guesthouses, homestays, campsites, and hotels. The district has a range of options to suit different budgets and preferences.

What are the famous festivals celebrated in Lahaul and Spiti?

Some of the famous festivals celebrated in Lahaul and Spiti include Losar, Phagli, and Tsheshu. These festivals are celebrated with great enthusiasm and involve traditional dances, music, and food.

Is it safe to travel to Lahaul and Spiti?

Yes, Lahaul and Spiti is generally considered safe for travelers. However, it is important to exercise caution when traveling on the hilly terrain and to be prepared for any weather-related emergencies. It is also important to respect the local customs and traditions.

At a Glance

  • 32.2496°N 77.3339°E
  • India
  • Himachal Pradesh
  • Keylong
  • 13,833 km2 (5,341 sq mi)
  • 86.97% (male), 66.5% (female)
  • Scanty rainfall