Lahaul and Spiti were two different districts in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh but have now amalgamated into a single entity. Located at an elevation of nearly 4000 meters above the sea level, this mountain desert district is also one of the least populated in the country.
High elevation with hardly any hazard of rainfall, this place is among the best winter retreats in India and takes you right into the cradle of nature with little human interaction. With the majority of the population here following Buddhism, many tranquil monasteries have found home here. It also has an abundance of natural attractions which you can explore on your visit here. The most popular of these are:
1. Rohtang Pass
Situated at an elevation of nearly 4000 meters above sea level, this pass is a scenic way for you to travel to Lahaul and Spiti from Manali by road. You can only travel here between May and November due to hostile weather conditions otherwise. You’re in for a visual treat when travelling by this route with spectacular panoramic views of the snow-clad Himalayan mountains.
Rohtang Pass / CC by 3.0 / Miya.m
Rohtang Pass Panorama / CC by 2.0/Vikramdeep Sidhu
2. Spiti Valley
This valley has a very dry landscape and is located right next to the Tibet border. You can find some of the oldest and most popular monasteries in the world here like Key and Tabo Monastery. You can find some picturesque villages here on the mountain slopes and explore these tiny settlements while taking in the views of the dry mountains in the backdrop is a treat. Being a long distance away from the lights of the city, this place is a paradise for all astrophotography lovers who are looking to capture the night sky or star-trails.
Spiti Valley Mountains / CC by 4.0 / Sudhanshu Gupta
Spiti Valley / CC by 4.0 / Nickowner
3. Chandra Taal
If you’re looking to camp out in the open, there’s no place better than Chandra Taal. This crescent-shaped lake has still and crystal clear water and you can see the reflections of the surrounding mountains and blue sky in it. You can choose to trek here on foot or reach by a vehicle and camp alongside the lake in the meadows. You will be treated to a sight of thousands of wildflowers around the lake during the spring. Camping by the lake and viewing the glowing night sky is a treat.
Chandra Taal / CC by 3.0/ Exeron~commonswiki
Lake and mountains / CC by 4.0/Sudhakarbichali
4. Key Monastery
This beautiful monastery is located right next to the Spiti River and is said to be nearly 1000 years old! You can visit this tranquil oasis built on a hilly terrain and take in some splendid views of the valley and the river. You also have a chance to spot a snow leopard in these areas. Usually surrounded by dry landscape, this monastery stands out among the snow-clad mountains during winters.
Key Monastery / CC by 3.0 / de:Benutzer:Moebius1
Key Monastery in Winter – CC by 4.0 / Ksuryawanshi
5. Tabo Monastery
You can visit this monastery in the Tabo village of Spiti. It is the oldest operating monastery in India and was founded way back in 996 CE! You can find some priceless collections of thankas, old manuscripts, statues, frescoes and murals throughout this beautiful place. The archaeological enthusiast in you will love to see the ages-old structures here merging seamlessly with the modern ones. This monastery too gives you some splendid views of the tall mountains rising on its sides.
Stupa – CC by 3.0 / Aimy Dhankar
Tabo Monastery – CC by 4.0 / Arup1981
CC by 4.0 / Sumita Roy Dutta
6. Pin Valley National Park
This 30-year-old national park is a part of the Spiti Valley and marks the border between Lahaul and Spiti. At its highest point, this park has an elevation of 6000 meters and this is a good enough reason for you to trek to its summit. You can find animals like the snow leopard and the Siberian ibex here along with birds like Himalayan Snowcock and snow finch, which come here during the summers. You could also find endangered medicinal plants in this region. It also has a relatively better green cover than other regions of the district.
Pin Valley National Park / CC by 4.0//Vishrutpanday
Although there are some good hotels here for tourists, many opt for couch-surfing at places of locals who’ve opened their doors for the tourists and experience the real life of a resident here.
While this region is relatively undeveloped with regards to tourism in comparison to its counterpart, Ladakh; it has its own charm that mesmerizes you into falling in love with the beautiful landscape here. With hardly any phone networks to disturb you, this place ensures that you are far away from any sort of urban interference and you get the peace that nature has to offer.