Winding roads, picturesque valleys offering glimpses of the beautiful cold desert, and intermittent greenery at places welcome you into the Spiti Valley. Calling it a paradise on earth won’t be anything wrong, as the world’s mightiest mountain range – the Himalayas – makes Spiti a perfect destination for adventure travel junkies. Spiti is all about highlands elevated several thousand feet above the sea level (12,500 feet), mountain lakes, glacial water and monasteries perched on the edge of the hilltops. What else do you need to make your holiday full of adventure and thrill?
Driving along NH-22, past Khab confluence and Nako village, when you reach Kaza you already have a lot to be exuberant about. Travelling hundreds of kilometres on the desolate roads, where there are virtually no traces of human race, with great scenery all around is got to be fun. Kaza even some years back was the perfect getaway for tourists visiting the Spiti Valley. But in the recent years, Kaza is gradually headed for the same destiny as that of the Mall Road, Manali or Shimla. The serpent of commercialization seems to be gobbling the small rural township with its mighty jaws. Still the town has managed to retain its charm because of its natural beauty and vibrant colours you see in shops and houses. A better option, therefore, is moving out of the town and exploring surrounding areas, which include Key Monastery and the Kibber village.
Once you have had enough of Kaza, all you have to do is board an HRTC bus at Kaza and embark on a 14 km-long journey to Key Monastery. It takes hardly half an hour to reach the 1000-year-old monastery on a hilltop. The road takes you up to the monastery gate from where a long flight of concrete stairs ushers you into the front hall of the monastery. The monastery, which hosts the largest number of monks and nuns in the entire Spiti valley, has ancient Buddhist murals and paintings.
Kibber – World’s Highest Village
After you have completed the trip through Key Monastery, it is time to embark on another 15-minute-long drive from the monastery courtyard which takes you to the highest village in the world. The village is situated at an altitude of 4,270 m and is well connected to the outer world via a road. It’s not only the highest inhabited village in the world, but also the highest polling station, and home to the highest education institution (high school) in the world.
Surrounded by hills and scenic sights on all sides, Kibber is a delightful place to visit for any explorer. Serenity and pristine beauty of the village will definitely captivate your imagination. Enjoy the community life in this small village by choosing home stays. In the morning, stroll across the village at a normal pace as, Kibber is one of the highest places in the world, you will find it hard to breathe while you explore the village. You can watch the farmers ploughing their fields; enjoy some locally produced dry fruits and fresh fruits. The generous villagers will welcome you with open arms. As the day wears out Spiti River flowing beside the village turns into molten gold during sunset, it is a sight you cannot miss. If you like some entertainment, follow the villagers to a small community hall, situated right in the middle of the village. The only television set in the village of Kiber can be found here and the community enjoys the shows together.
Meaning of Spiti is “the middle land” as the valley is embedded between India and Tibet. This is why all the villages in Spiti including Kibber have a tinge of distinctive Tibetan Buddhism in their culture and lifestyle. It’s deep rooted in everyday life here. Local people can be seen rejoicing at local Buddhist festivals. These festivals provide a perfect platform for exhibiting harmony and cultural exchange in local community. People dress in colourful attires to be a part of local fests like Fagli and Gochi. Other famous fairs are Ladarcha, Pauri, and Tsheshu. July and August are months of celebration as the later three are celebrated in these two months. Most of the fairs are celebrated on maiden slopes of Kibber village where traders from Kullu, Lahaul, Kinnaur, Rampur and Spiti, trade their produces.
Do not miss these hidden gems of Himachal Pradesh, next time you are there.