SPITI VALLEY

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THE SPITI VALLEY

The Spiti Valley is a cold desert mountain valley located high in the Himalaya mountains in the north-eastern part of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The name "Spiti" means "The Middle Land", i.e. the land between Tibet and India.

WEATHER IN SPITI AND WHEN TO GO

Spiti remains practically cut off from the rest of India for 6 months of the year. Thick Himalayan snow blocks the mountain passes, making it almost impossible for road transport to pass through, even on the Shimla-Kinnaur route. The summer months from late May to late September are therefore the best time to visit Spiti. As the weather warms up, the snow slowly melts and gets cleared away to open up road travel to the valley.

With only 250 days of sunshine in a year, winter in Spiti is a harsh affair. Temperatures on average drop to -30 degrees Celsius, and the lack of any modern form of heating means most families cuddle together in a single room in the house and keep warm around wood fire. To survive the harsh conditions, the Spitian people celebrate festivals and most family affairs (birthdays, weddings) in the winter months, stocking up on food and local alcohol; the winter months are privy to Spiti's unique and introspective culture, though survivable only by extreme adventurers!

Local population follow Vajrayana Buddhism similar to that found in the nearby Tibet Autonomous Region and the Ladakh region of India. The valley and surrounding region is one of the least populated regions in India and is the gateway to the northernmost reaches of the nation. Along the northern route from Manali, Himachal Pradesh or Keylong via the Rohtang Pass or Kunzum Pass respectively, the valley lies in the North East of the Indian hill state of Himachal Pradesh, and forms part of the Lahaul and Spiti district. The sub-divisional headquarters (capital) is Kaza, Himachal Pradesh. Which is situated along the Spiti River at an elevation of about 12,500 feet (3,800 m) above mean sea level.

Lahaul and Spiti is surrounded by high mountain ranges. The Rohtang Pass, at 13,054 feet (3,979 m), separates Lahul and Spiti from the Kullu Valley. Lahul and Spiti are cut off from each other by the higher Kunzum Pass, at 15,059 feet (4,590 m).A road connects the two divisions, but is cut off frequently in winter and spring due to heavy snow. The valley is likewise cut off from the north up to eight months of the year by heavy snowfalls and thick icing conditions. A southern route to India proper is periodically closed for brief periods in the winter storms of November through June, but road access is usually restored a few days after storms end via Shimla and the Sutlej in the Kinnaur district.

HOW TO REACH SPITI ?

There are 2 road routes leading up to the Trans-Himalayas of Spiti; one from Shimla via the Kinnaur valley, and the other from Manali. The former takes a minimum of 2 days, with a night's halt in Kalpa or Reckong Peo, and though longer, gives more time to gradually acclimatize to the altitude. The latter takes 12-14 hours, depending on road conditions.

WHAT TO PACK ?

As a cold mountain desert, the weather in Spiti is almost confusing! The sun's rays are harsh enough to burn your skin, while shaded areas remain cool enough to wear a jacket. It's best to pack clothes in layers, and carry full-sleeve T-shirts, sun hats, sun glasses and any other sun protection you can find. Good walking shoes are a must.

GOING INDEPENDENTLY OR IN A GROUP ?

Whether you travel by yourself or join a group trip is a personal decision. The villages of Spiti, though remote, are home to some of the kindest, friendliest people in India, and very welcoming of solo travellers. You do need a heart for adventure though - from the precarious journeys on rickety state buses, to hitchhiking with strangers, to travelling without a plan (most guesthouses or homestays can't be pre-booked online). Alternatively, you can join one of our group to Spiti, designed in collaboration with a local organization with varying degrees of adventure, hiking, culture and sightseeing, planned such that your carbon footprint in this ecologically sensitive region remains low.

WE SUGGEST GO AS A GROUP SHARE & CARE..

GETTING PERMITS

Indian identity holders going to Spiti, from Shimla or Manali, do not require permits to enter Spiti. Foreign identity holders entering Spiti via the Kinnaur route from Shimla require inner-line permits, since this route takes you very close to the Tibetan border. Permits can be obtained at Reckong Peo near Kalpa, and take upto a few hours to be issued.

CONNECTIVITY

Only BSNL Sim cards obtained in Himachal Pradesh work in Spiti, and that too only in Kaza (Spiti's administrative capital) and some of the lower villages. There is a single cyber cafe in Kaza, that draws on the army satellite to offer an internet connection whose speed reminds you of the dial-up days!

HOMESTAYS IN SPITI

Some Spitian families, in the higher, more remote villages, have opened up their homes and hearts to travellers, with the help of Ecosphere, a social enterprise that works on the sustainable development of the region. Though basic, Spitian homes are roomy and spacious, with the mighty Himalayas in their balcony! The Spitian toilets are dry and de-composting in nature; you have to squat over a hole in the ground, and throw hay through it once you're done with your business. It decomposes naturally and is used as manure.

Let`s travel Spiti Valley..

Namaste..

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