Lāhul and Spiti

Discover travel destinations of travelers writing a travel journal on FindPenguins.

11 travelers at this place

  • Day289

    Record-breaking Spiti

    June 14, 2018 in India

    Isn’t it on the dice that the spectacular location of the Spiti Valley could make some good advertisement to attract tourists?
    Of course it is and that’s what the tourism department of Himachal Pradesh does (and the local population chuckles about): They claim to have the highest bridge in Asia, the highest village in the world, the highest city in the world, the highest post office in the world, the highest rooftop café in the world and so on...

    It works, the tourists are coming, but most of it isn’t the truth and altitude indications on the signposts are always doubtful. We trust our GPS, our maps and enjoy our time, record yes or no :)
    Read more

  • Day282

    A true dirt road

    June 7, 2018 in India

    Behind the pass, most people turn left to go to Leh in Ladakh on a paved road. We turned right to continue to Spiti - and the adventure began immediately. Some oncoming motorbikers warned us of the rising water levels. A few kilometers later we found ourselves within the icy waters of the first waterfall we had to cross, many more with knee-deep water followed and it somehow raised our fun factor to see how much more cars and even motorbikes were struggling than us.

    Actually you can’t call the ‘connection’ between Rohtang Pass and Kunzum La Pass (4550m) a road. It’s the only way, only open from June to September, and it’s just a horrible path. The little villages are abandoned most time of the year. Due to the icy crossings, the high altitude and the debris, our effort to move on was enormous, we needed a week to cycle the 100km. Sometimes the road turns into a river, sometimes it felt like bobbing from one rock to another.

    But we actually knew this before and we wanted this challenge, we knew that the area we’re going in is one of the most remote and disaster prone in the world, there is no network, not much food, no infrastructure at all. Shooting stones and landslides are daily fare. We were quite lucky when the ‘path’ became impassable after a massive landslide, just the day after we reached the last village before Kunzum La where many travelers got stuck then.

    After these few days, the beauty of the landscape, the remoteness, the silence, the starry sky, the thrill had already paid out in full. And there was a lot more to come up...impressions will follow :)
    Read more

  • Day294

    Pin Valley

    June 19, 2018 in India ⋅ ☀️ 6 °C

    Coming to Kaza, which is the headquarter of Lahaul and Spiti, felt a bit like entering back into civilization, we could choose from menus in the various restaurants, there were hotels, guesthouses and souvenir shops, a fruit and vegetable market. But still, power outages came frequent and there was no mobile network. At least two places have set up a wifi, which worked a little between 2 and 3 am when the town was sleeping. It was the first time after 10 days that we could send and receive messages and unfortunately there was not only good news: Silke’s Grandma had died already a week ago... :(

    To mourn and to make other thoughts come, we decided to leave Kaza again. Therefore we had to get an ‘Inner Line Permit’ for an upcoming stretch of 28km. A typical, nerve-racking Indian bureaucracy act with many pass-photos and lots of paperworks followed. There’s only one road, thus every foreigner has to undergo this useless process. The official reason is that we would get as close as a stone’s throw from the Tibetan border...however, it is what it is.

    We cycled into the Pin Valley which we also call ‘Windy Valley’ since we went in and out due to heavy gusty winds. The winds occasionally pushed us to a standstill but the valley is beautiful and still a bit off the beaten track, overall a worthy detour. It’s a side valley formed by the Pin River which merges with the Spiti River.

    As we entered, there was a transformation from the stone desert to acres of greenery and green mountains. There’s a chain of lovely villages and (not muddy) Mud is the last one and a dead end apart from a few hiking paths.

    People are so hospitable there (they tried hard to enable us watching the Germany match against Mexico, which didn’t work...and we’re quite happy about now) that we decided to stay longer. We enjoyed the peace of this place, went for a nice walk and enjoyed tons of ‘Tibetan pizza’ (which is actually just a sandwich of two simple chapatis with some veggies and cheese in between, fried in a pan, but delicious!).
    Read more

  • Day280

    Rohtang Pass

    June 5, 2018 in India

    The serpentines up there were countless and in the distance we could clearly see the road: A white snake (99% of the cars are white) meandering up the mountains, probably the highest traffic jam in the world (although they’ve limited the number of cars to 1200 per day). We could easily overtake them and luckily, the day we made the final climb was a Tuesday, so the road was closed for the public and only trucks supplying the population on the other side of the pass we’re allowed. We left our ‘base camp’ early and the road was ours :)

    The pass itself is rather unspectacular, but it’s the gateway to another world and the landscape changed dramatically behind: Rough mountains and unreachable, snowy peaks, we’re back in the Himalayas! And have never been so high with our bicycles...
    Hello Lahaul!

    A few Indians were up there though, wearing the funny old-fashioned snowsuits you can rent everywhere along the road since Manali. We were actually wondering for what, but when we reached Rohtang and continued for a bit we saw it: Indian tourists rolling from one side to the other in a few, grey remainings of snow, armed with selfie sticks and dressed with these awful suits. So funny to watch! This is what some of them came all the way from south India for, and some did not even make it to the pass because of traffic jam and lack of time - absolutely insane!
    Read more

  • Day283

    Chandra Tal

    June 8, 2018 in India

    Chandra Tal is called 'The Moon Lake‘. When we’re standing there at 4200m, watching the scenery around us, we had no effort to imagine that this place could be detached from earth, so it’s a suitable name :) The turquoise water in this scenery is incredible, in whatever direction we turned our heads, we were amazed.

    As the path leading there is a one-way and not less rough than anything else here, we decided to keep our camp and bikes next to the river in Batal and hike to the lake and back. We were quite surprised how much we underestimated the effort to do this and luckily found a group of Indians who gave us a lift for a few kilometers on our way back.

    Back in Batal, the famous Tibetan couple 'Chachi and Chacha' were happy to see us again and well understood how exhausted and hungry we were, so they prepared us a simple but hearty meal.

    Batal is one of these villages which is only inhabited during the summer months, the few buildings consist of walls made from stacked rocks covered with a tarpaulin, there is no electricity, nothing but a rocky desert.

    Chachi and Chacha have been running their cosy Dhaba since more than 30 years there, their tranquility is contagious and they are true heroes for any traveler. They’ve received several awards and were honored by a visit of the Dalai Lama years ago. If there is an emergency, they are there to help, whoever gets stuck in Batal can sleep in their Dhaba and they make sure that nobody starves, whereby money is never an issue. They always try to keep provisions to feed 30 people for 10 days which helped a few dozen tourists to survive an unforeseen, heavy snowfall in summer 2010 which cut off the village. A first helicopter with provisions reached them after more than a week and evacuated the women and childs.

    After two nights of camping at the river, we left Batal well fed. Chachi and Chacha said ‘goodbye’ and wished us ‘good luck’ for the Kunzum La, so what could go wrong?
    Read more

  • Day299

    Preservation efforts

    June 24, 2018 in India ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    Tabo became famous after its thousand-year-long anniversary in 1996 wherefore tens of thousands pilgrimaged to the old monastery. It has the most impressive temple we‘ve ever seen, built from mud and so old, but with well-preserved, beautiful mural paintings, stucco and terrifying wooden figures coming out of the walls. It’s almost dark inside, there’s only a little opening in the middle of the roof where some sunrays may enter and any other light (cameras as well) is strictly prohibited to protect the artworks. The lighting conditions create a mystical, even terrifying atmosphere which made us taking every footstep with a lot of care, and humility.

    The cute village Mane manages to keep tourism at a low level and maintains its traditions. It is certainly not harmful that it is hidden by the surrounding mountains on a higher plateau and invisible from the road. There is only one homestay, which is still a true, non-commercialized homestay where the family was around us or we were around them, eating together in their living room. And their were so many kids, strikingly curious kids, super excited to see us foreigners, keen to help us with our stuff when we arrived and always around - great fun!

    We’re so thankful to all the road workers continuously maintaining the road. Conditions are still bad though, but without their efforts the roads would become impassable within a few days. Some stretches are so dangerous, meaning the landslide or shooting stone areas where those poor people permanently clear the way, risking their own lives and making it possible for us to cycle here (the poorest of them even live along the road in tiny tin shacks). Thank you!
    Read more

  • Day285

    Kunzum La

    June 10, 2018 in India

    It’s a 4550m high pass and notorious for its fast changing weather, it was a fight to get up there and we had to push our limits. We’re proud that we made it on our own - but told us that we don’t want to go any higher on our bikes, at least not in the foreseeable future :)

    On our way up we met Aurelio from Switzerland and Himanshu from India, they were cycling the opposite way, and told us that we would be almost there. This wasn’t actually true...but it helped!

    By the way, sadly all other cyclists we met went in the other direction, some guys from India, a guy from Japan, one from Columbia, a couple from France, a couple from Thailand, a guy from Singapore and a couple from Italy. It was great to spend at least a few hours with them, listening to fascinating experiences...but it would have been awesome to cycle with you guys!

    Behind the pass, our exhaustion was overwhelming and we ended up camping as high as never before, at almost 4500m, in a beautiful spot though.

    Julley, Spiti!
    Read more

  • Day287

    Julley, Julley Spiti!

    June 12, 2018 in India

    Loosely translated, ‘Spiti’ means ‘the middle country’ - a name given as a result of its location and traditional ties with both India and Tibet. The average altitude of this region is higher than 4000m. Quite often we were wondering if it’s still India we’re in...

    ...And not only once we should hear that the people see Spiti as a ‘little, free Tibet’. They are so hearty and easygoing, but also working hard to make it through the unforgiving winters - their favorite time of the year because there’s no work to do and lots of social life: Traditional celebrations, singings, table games, but also drinking and television (if exceptionally there’s no power outage).

    It is both surprising and fascinating to see that almost the entire physical work, in the fields or at construction sites, is done by women, some of them even carry their child on their back, and there’s no ‘too old’. They mainly grow potatoes, green peas and seabuckthorn. The shapes of the fields are never the same, always fitting perfectly into the given terrain, they are so well maintained and look so accurate that the veggies have no other option than being delicious - the demand is tremendous.

    The white Spiti houses with their black framed windows and flat roofs which are covered with reefs to keep the snow away are remarkable and perfectly fit into the surroundings. The little villages are just lovely and when a whole village is under sound exposure from a megaphone playing 'Om Mani Padme Hum' or speeches of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual atmosphere thrills everyone.

    In Losar, the first Spiti village on our way, we soaked up the spirit and enjoyed our first accommodation since 10 days. There was still no connection, no wifi...
    Read more

  • Day291

    Ki Gompa

    June 16, 2018 in India

    The prayer halls and homes of the monks were built on top of each other around a little hill, creating a Buddhistic fortress where about 300 monks of all ages live nowadays. It is rich in history and we were so fond of the atmosphere that we decided to stay overnight, which is possible for a small contribution.

    It was our first night in a monastery and we could experience a bit of the monks‘ daily life. A very nice Lama took care of us, prepared some basic meals, even a midnight tea, and tried to answer our questions. We slept at the top of the hill what allowed us to watch the young monks doing their prayers or monk discussions on the roofs below. Just search for some videos of monk discussions and you’ll agree that this is an interesting technique :)

    There were some other travelers we had a great time with, sharing stories and enjoying the fantastic views and the tangible stars at night. Sometimes visits to the most remarkable places make you meeting the most remarkable people...
    Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Lāhul and Spiti, Lahul and Spiti