"To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasant sensations of the world" ~ Freya Stark

"You learn a lot from mountains. You learn that you are actually controlled by nature, and it makes you humble". This could not be more relatable. Talking about mountains and nature, that is why everyone adds Ladakh to their wish list as it is the ultimate place where once you go, you leave a part of your soul. This is what beautiful places do to us. They leave a mark on us which can never be erased. Ladakh cannot be described in words, its culture, the mountains and its people, everything is just mesmerizing. Ladakh has always been the most visited place for many years because it was less crowded and less explored. While Ladakh was showing off its breathtaking beauty, Spiti Valley, its neighbor was slowly being noticed by everyone. Spiti Valley remained isolated and unspoiled by tourism for almost 30 years. Till the 1990s, even Indians needed the permission to enter Spiti Valley, but now its surreal beauty has distracted the world.

The main question now arises is that why you should visit Spiti Valley instead of Ladakh? Okay, Ladakh is sure all dreamy but it's more commercialized now. Spiti Valley is yet to be explored and is altogether a different planet. If you're still thinking about Ladakh, then give some time to convince you. Let me start with the basics first.

WHERE IS SPITI VALLEY?

"Spiti" literally means the middle land and it is situated between Tibet and India border, northeast of Himachal Pradesh. It is lying untouched in the lap of the Himalayas and the Spiti river flow besides it making it even more magical. It remains hidden from the rest of India for almost 6 months of the year as heavy snow blocks the mountain pass. Spiti Valley only gets 250 days of sunshine, well rest of the days are harsh for them, especially the winters. In winters the temperature drops to -30 degrees Celsius. Lahul- Spiti District is full of isolated towns and villages. It is a cold desert, full of barren mountains, rugged roads, and picturesque surroundings. It is the land of surrealism because the terrains, the views, the weather and of course the food leave a lasting impact on one's heart. After every mountain or two, a landscape totally different from the previous one unfolds itself.

Why you should visit Spiti Valley instead of Ladakh?

Kaza, THE HEADQUARTERS

Kaza is the headquarters of Spiti Valley. It is a bustling town, kind of like the Shimla of Spiti Valley. It is the only organized town, which has clean roads and is developing more rapidly as the tourism there is increasing. It is a perfect base for you to settle down once you go there and explore the cold desert. Forget about the mobile network while you're in Spiti Valley but now in Kaza, the network is alright and there is only one cyber centre, but don't expect too much from that because it is too slow. In Kaza, there are hotels for staying; good eating places where you can have some really delicious food and a taste of their culture. Stay overnight at Kaza and see for yourself what it has to offer you.

Why you should visit Spiti Valley instead of Ladakh?

Culture & Life in Spiti

The culture of Spiti- its language, its food, and most everything are heavily influenced by Tibet. People are simple and friendly. It has always remained isolated from the world, so there is not much that has influenced the people of Spiti Valley. People there still practice the old traditions, are very superstitious and believe in age-old rituals. The main source of livelihood there still remains to farm. Barley, potatoes and green peas are cultivated in the month of May and the crop is harvested at the end of August. It is when the valley gets painted in a shade of green on its barren brown mountains. Spiti receives very less rainfall. They are not dependent on irrigation; an age-old solution is still in practice. Winters are very rough for the people in Spiti Valley, they mostly celebrate every festival and even birthdays in winter (they stock up enough food and beverages). As there is no internet and mobile network, people are more connected to each other which now seem almost unreal in this fast life. Spiti Valley possesses a distinctive Tibetan Buddhist culture similar to that found in Tibet and Ladakh region of India. The Pin Valley there is home to the few surviving Buchen Lamas of the Nyingampa sect of Buddhism.

Why you should visit Spiti Valley instead of Ladakh?

Food and homestays

If you plan a trip to Spiti Valley, I would suggest that make a trip for 12-15 days. Don't go there as a tourist, who just visits all the main spots, visit as a traveler and travel the unmarked places. Opt for a homestay where you can stay with the local people and can experience true happiness. Homestays are cheaper and more fun because you get to know how they survive on a lonely land, their culture, and everything. Experience the pleasure of a home cooked meal there. Mostly you get traditional vegetarian meals and simple rural wonders in the homestay. You can even learn to cook with them, and share a bond which is much more valuable and true. Don't forget to taste the local and famous food there like- Pava, Sku, Khambir, Momos, and Thukpa. For the chai lovers, don't miss to drink the mouthwatering Tibetan Butter Tea.

Why you should visit Spiti Valley instead of Ladakh?
Monasteries

Lahul- Spiti district is filled with some of the oldest monasteries. In the small village of Giu, a 500-year-old mummy of Sangha Tenzin who was a Tibetan monk is preserved naturally without the use of any chemicals. That is why Giu attracts many tourists every year. Tanggyud Monastery at Komik (the highest village) is the highest monastery in the Spiti Valley. Key Gompa is situated on the peak of a hill close to the river Spiti, Lamas get religious training there. 40 km away from Giu, one of the oldest monasteries is situated- Tabo Monastery. It contains original artifacts and canvas. It is a beautiful monastery; from there you can enjoy some of the views which leave you spellbound. Another monastery Dhankar Gompa, which is approx thousand years old, is still functioning. Key Monastery which is perched on a mountain slope is a breathtaking sight to behold. Dalai Lama has stayed and visited these monasteries many times.

Why you should visit Spiti Valley instead of Ladakh?

Camping Near Chandratal Lake

Trek through the Hampta Pass to Chandratal lake and get lost in the beauty of it. There is no underground source to this lake. It is situated at the height of 14,000 feet above sea level. At night it becomes a land where you get to know that there's not much difference between the earth and the heaven. A sky full of stars makes you realize that the universe is so vast and you're a small part of it yet very significant somehow. Don't miss out the star-gazing night at Chandratal Lake. Apart from Chandratal Lake, there is also Suraj Lake and Dhankar Lake which are also pristine and enchanting.

Why you should visit Spiti Valley instead of Ladakh?

A Thing to remember

Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS is a serious problem. The high altitude of Spiti Valley (3300-5000 meters) needs considerable acclimatization for every traveler. There are two routes to get there- one via Shimla and one from Manali side. Going from Shimla will help you gradually increase the altitude and your body gets acclimatized properly. You'd probably be traveling on Hindustan- Tibet highway which is an adventure itself. The Kunzum La which is the gateway of Spiti is one of the favourite among the travelers and also the Rohtang Pass is equally awesome.

Spiti Valley: The conclusion

Well, this is not even close to actually describing the Spiti Valley. You can say that it is truly one of the most beautiful creations of the God. It's like as if he spent too much time while painting this wonderland that each and every detail is perfect. So next time, plan a trip to Spiti Valley instead. Visit the place which has no connectivity yet the connection you will there will be forever getting imprinted on your soul.

Image Courtesy:

www.weekendthrill.com, indiauntravelled.blogspot.in, www.lifeinspiti.com, www.mitchellk-photos.com, www.esamskriti.com, www.tripoto.com, traveltriangle.com