What comes to your mind when you picture a cold barren desert surrounded by tall snow clad peaks and picture perfect villages? If you cannot picture it yet or cannot think of such a place, you need to visit the magical land of Spiti. With the vast flatlands stretched over miles, the landscape changing its face with every passing village, mighty mountains surrounding the entire area, a river or a lake being spotted every now and then and quaint villages scattered all across the valley, Spiti is an altogether different experience that no other place can offer.
With its close proximity to the land of Tibet, it is also infamously known as the Middle Land . Also, owing to the location of the valley, most of the population here is Buddhist and follow the ancient traditions of Buddhism. While there a few temples in the valley, you will find a host of beautiful monasteries amongst which some are even the oldest one’s existing. The monasteries are a perfect way to dive into the Buddhist culture and experience a different way of life led by people living there.
Let us now take a look at some of the monasteries of Spiti you must visit.
- Tabo Monastery
Located in the Tabo Village of Spiti Valley, this monastery is the oldest working monastery in the whole valley. With old age architecture of mud stupas and monastery complex, the Tabo monastery is more of an experience than just a place to visit. Tabo is a small village on the way to Spiti while you are coming from Kinnaur. The monastery is worth visiting for the old carvings and manuscripts on the rocks there. You literally travel back in time as you visit the monastery. There is also a new monastery complex in Tabo which is quite bigger in size but does not have the same charm as the old one. In fact the Tabo monastery is so beautiful that Dalai Lama himself has expressed his wish of staying here after retirement. Thus, Tabo Monastery is one of the places you must visit while you are in Spiti Valley.
2) Tangyud Monastery
Spiti is known for its age old traditions and ancient ways . While the other monasteries are mostly used by monks for living and offering prayers, the Tangyud is not an exception except that it is known for its occult practices that take place here and the history that dates back to ancient times. Kaza, which is the district headquarter of Spiti, has another monastery by the same name which is quite bigger in size than this one. It is home to around 80 monks as on date who practice their daily rituals and spend their routine life here. The monastery is located in the Komic village of Spiti valley which is regarded as the highest village in the world accessible by road. Thus, while you are there, you must visit the Tangyud Monastery to experience something different like never before. Also, NotOnMap’s House at Komik is something you must experience while you visiting here.
3) Dhankar Monastery
Considered as the capital of Spiti once upon a time, Dhankar is a town which shall mesmerize you with its jaw dropping views. Also, there is quite an old monastery located in the village known for its old age structure and traditions. Visit Dhankar village and head out to the monastery to experience the spirituality that the monastery of Dhankar beholds. The small complex, made full of stones and mud, is decorated with different artifacts and every evening the priest comes to the monastery for daily prayers and rituals. You can sit in the monastery and experience the strong spiritual vibes during the prayer sessions in the evening. There is also a fort above the monastery which is worth visiting. Thus, while you are at Dhankar in Spiti, do not forget to visit the old monastery there.
4) Key/ Kye/ Kee Monastery
Among all the other monasteries of Spiti, the largest one and the most popular one is the Key Monastery. Located at around 15 kms from the town of Kaza, Key Monastery stands tall on a hill overlooking the mighty barren and beautiful mountains with the river flowing through the valley. Key Monastery is home to some 250 monks. You must visit the monastery to see the views of the beautiful valley surrounded by landscape that embeds its place into your memory . Also, while you are here, you can stay at the monastery for a night to experience the monastic life. The experience of eating, sitting and praying with the monks can be life changing altogether. Thus, while you are here, do not forget to visit the Key Monastery to witness the beautiful complex along with the experience of meeting hundreds of monks here.
Now, Spiti, being at a high altitude of, the region has a number of glaciers which are the main source of water in the villages nearby. And below the glaciers, near the villages, are also some of the most beautiful lakes which you cannot miss. While some lakes are easy to reach by road, some might require you to hike or trek along the mountains. But do not hesitate when you are in Spiti, because it’s all worth it.
Let us now take a look at some of the lakes of Spiti that you must visit.
1) Dhankar Lake
Among the less popular lakes, is the Dhankar Lake which is located right above the village of Dhankar in Spiti Valley. The lake is one of the most beautiful glacial lakes and you need to hike for an hour to reach there. Start off by walking on a trail from Dhankar Village and you will reach the lake in an hour. The lake is located on the top of the hill with the backdrop of the beautiful Himalayan ranges. You can spend some time here and head back in the evening to return back to the village. Thus, while you are in Spiti, do not forget to visit this mesmerizing untouched lake.
2) Surya Tal Lake
Located near the famous Baralacha la pass on Leh-Manali highway, Suraj Tal Lake is another untouched lake that you must visit while in Spiti. With the spell-binding views of the surrounding mountains and pristine blue waters of lake, Suraj Tal is a treat to both, the eyes and the soul. You can visit the lake while you are heading to Leh via Manali. Don’t forget to keep a halt at Surya Tal Lake in the itinerary.
3) Sopona Lake
Spiti has a number of lakes that are only known by locals and are quite untouched and unknown. One such lake is the Sopona Lake above Mane village which you can visit to experience the splendid nature like never before. Mane is small village at a few kilometers before Kaza. From Mane, you need to hike for around 3-4 hours to reach the lake. It is better that you take a local person with you while you are heading there as the trail is not marked properly. But the adventure of going on a hike to a lake that is not visited by many is a different experience altogether. Thus, while you are in Spiti, do make it a point to visit Sopona Lake for some beautiful views of untouched nature.
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4) Chandertal Lake
Among all the lakes in Spiti, the most popular one is the Chandratal lake. Located at a few kilometers ahead of Batal, Chandratal is famous among the most of the travelers. The ride to Chandratal from Batal is one of the most bumpy and tiring ones. But trust me, when you reach the lake after a 2 hour drive, all the pain goes away in seconds. The lake is located deep inside the valley surrounded by the mighty snowcapped mountains. While there are numerous options to stay for a night there, if you take your own tent, you can camp around the lake finding a spot away from the crowd. The spectacular sight of the lake on a cold starry night is something you should not miss.
Thus, visiting Chandratal Lake is a must while you are in Spiti .
In the end, Spiti Valley has a lot to offer to its tourists. Along with the mighty mountains and picture perfect villages, you must make it a point to visit the monasteries and lakes of Spiti to truly experience the untouched beauty that it beholds .