Breathtaking landscape, unique wildlife, atmospheric Buddhist monasteries and warm people make the travel to pristine Spiti an out of the world experience. No wonder Rudyard Kipling called Spiti - a world within a world. Spiti, literally meaning "the middle land" i.e., the land between India and Tibet, is a cold desert. Read on for places to see, best time to visit, how to reach, weather in Spiti, and lot more!
Spiti has no air or railway connectivity. It's connected to the outside world by road from Manali side via Rohtang and Kunzum pass, and from Shimla side via Kinnaur. Kunzum pass remains snowbound for about 6 months, and so Shimla-Kinnaur route, which remains open round the year (subject to temporary closures due to landslides or heavy snowfall), is the only possible option to visit Spiti during the winter times.
Spiti circuit is a very popular route for road trip and if you don't mind driving for long stretches amidst some of the worst roads of the world, this journey whether it's made with a bike or car can be a very rewarding experience!
To reach Spiti from Delhi, one can take a bus to Reckong Peo (Multiple buses including one direct Delhi-Peo ordinary bus (INR 800) and other delux buses till Chandigarh, Shimla or Rampur are there). From Reckong Peo there is a Kaza bus which starts at 7am and goes via Nako and Tabo reaching Kaza (INR 340) at about 5pm.
This being the only option before Kunzum pass gets cleared of snow sometime in June.
When Kunzum pass is clear (June-Oct) another option that opens up is to take a bus to Manali and then reach Spiti from Manali.
There is a bus to Spiti from Manali which starts early morning (6 am) reaching Spiti later in the evening. There are shared taxis as well which operate during similar times, which are usually more comfortable and take lesser time but are more costly (~Rs. 1000/pax) than the public bus. If you like having your space and don't mind paying more, then you can also get private taxis in Manali which charge approx. Rs.xyz for a drop to Kaza.
Jan-Feb in Spiti is the peak winters with the whole valley covered with a thick layer of snow and roads often being blocked for days. The white Spiti at this time is a surreal experience, if you're ready to brave the extreme cold. Depending on the snowfall, March is probably a better time to see white-Spiti as many homestays and guesthouses start opening and weather starts becoming relatively better.
Come April and the snow starts melting with day temperatures starting to rise. June-Aug is the time when you see a change in scenery with green fields almost everywhere providing a stark contrast to the desolate mountains on either side. This time sees monsoon arriving in most other parts of the country and with raining cats-and-dogs everywhere else, it's a peak tourist season in Spiti.
Sept onwards is a dry season and you find Spiti starting to go into hibernation as most of the workers in hotels and restaurants, and even locals start leaving for the lower regions of Himachal or elsewhere for the winters.
The best way to get a close look at Spitian life is by staying in the homestays, which have been setup in several villages including Langza, Kibber and Komic on the east side of the Spiti valley. All of them are beautiful villages set amidst pristine desolate beauty with similar looking box shaped whitewashed houses made of mud-bricks surrounded by Buddhist prayer flags.
The warm hospitality of the homestay folks makes for an experience worth remembering. They serve amazing food as well, usually eaten sitting with the host family in front of a fireplace in the traditional kitchens. It could be freezing outside but very warm inside. If your taste buds crave for some local food, there isn't a better place than a homestay.
The price, per person per night, is around INR 500-800, that includes two or three meals. The life in the remote Spitian villages is not easy (as you might observe during your stay), so we recommend not to haggle over the price at homestay.
There are homestays in Kaza as well but most of them are more like a guest house and so don't expect the authentic homestay experience there. The popular Tara homestay in Mudh village of Pin valley is also more like a guesthouse with a basic restaurant like setup for the dining room, but they have a traditional dining place downstairs which they use for travelers in shoulder-season / off-season or when there are only a few guests and you ask nicely! ;)
Seabuckthorn - the magic berryFrequently seen growing naturally in high altitude arid areas of Spiti you'll find this shrub with small golden fruit which is very nutrient rich especially having an extremely high content of Vitamin C. While in Spiti, ask for this wonder fruit (Seabuckthorn is mainly served as tea or juice) and enjoy its health benefits!
It's also possible to stay in the Key monastery (and there are homestays near Dhankar monastery as well), if you want to see the monastery life and rituals up-close.
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