The mystical land of Lahaul-Spiti is an unconventional and unexplored destination. Lahaul has been blessed with it all – lofty peaks cradling huge glaciers, sprawling moors and meadows giving away to deep valleys, gushing rivers flowing along the villages, spectacular high altitude lakes, dozens of Buddhist monasteries and a few Hindu temples. Chandra and Bhaga are the main rivers that combine to become the Chandrabhaga or Chenab River. This is mainly a stark and barren mountainous region with some green patches. It is a perfect destination for those who have taste for adventure and the offbeat experiences. It is a rich storehouse of art, culture and learning for those interested in Buddhism.
Lahaul derived from ‘Lhahi-yul’ means ”Country of the Gods’’ in Tibetan. The main mountain ranges are the Pir Panjal, the Shigri in Spiti and the Drilbu range which has the towering Gyephang Peak near Tandi which is visible even from Shimla. The highway connecting Manali to Leh is one of the highest roads in the world and it passes through Lahaul. The highway traverses four high mountain passes.
The main Passes of this district are:
- Rohtang La (3980m)
- Baralacha La (4890m): Located on the Manali-Leh highway, Baralacha aptly means ‘’Crossroads at the summit’’. Roads from Lahaul, Spiti, Ladakh and Zanskar converge here. Baralacha is 8 kms long and its glaciers feed the Chandra, Bhaga and Yunam Rivers.
- Lachlang La (5066m)
- Tanglang La (5360m)
- Kunzum La (4550m): Located in the Kunzum range, this pass connects Lahaul and Spiti. It offers a view of the manificent Shigri Peak.
Lahaul consists of 5 main valleys:
1. Rangoli Valley: This is the Chandra River valley, home to Khoksar (first village as you enter the valley), Sissu, Gondhla and Gushal villages.
2. Bhaga Valley: This is the Bhaga River valley starting from Baralacha Pass all the way to Keylong.
3. Pattan Valley: Formed by the Chandrabhaga River, Pattan valley houses the villages of Tandi, Warpa, Shansha, Ranika, Jalma and Jobrang.
4. Pin Valley: Formed by the Pin River, a tributary of the Spiti, the valley lies at the base of the Kungri glacier. The valley can be accessed from Atrangoo, 10kms ahead of Schichling. Gungri Monastery in Pin Valley is known for its relics and paintings. Pin Valley is popular for its trekking routes:
- Trek to Kullu over the Pin Parbati Pass.
- Trek to Kinnaur over the Bhaba Pass.
5. Lingti Valley: The Lingti River, a tributary of the Spiti, forms the valleys. It has some moderate-difficult level trekking routes.
Places to Visit in Lahaul-Spiti:
Kibber & Ki
Medical facilities are available at Kaza, Tabo, Kibber and Sangam. Travelers are advised to carry required and prescription medicines when travelling to the higher regions.
Kaza has a fuel station.
Main Festivals of Lahaul-Spiti:
The people of Lahaul and Spiti are Buddhists as well as Hindus. ‘Bhoti’ is the main language spoken. ‘Juley’ is the common greeting and means hello, goodbye and thank you. Lahaul, like other districts of Himachal, is packed with festivals, fairs and celebrations.
Phagli: This festival is celebrated in the Pattan Valley of Lahaul towards the end of Paush month (December-January). A snow filled kilta (local conical basket) is overturned on a roof to resemble a Shivling which is worshipped. Food and locally brewed liquors are consumed amongst song and dance routines as part of the festivities.
Dechhang: Celebrated in extreme winter in tribal Spiti and in early April in Lahaul by the entire community.
Gochi: Celebrated in the villages of Bhaga Valley to commemorate the birth of male children. Token child marriages are performed as a custom. The children then indulge in joyous snowball fights.
Lossar: This is celebrated in February the Buddhist areas in Lahaul. Monasteries hold ritualistic dances with spectacular performances. Lossar marks the beginning of the New Year. On the eve of the Lossar festival, the ‘Chhaam’ dance is performed with elaborate costumes and the trademark masks. It signifies the victory of good over evil and commemorates the end of the cruel Tibetan king, Lang Darma in the 9th century.
Char: The festival of Char is celebrated in March in Triloknath.
Ladarcha Fair: This is a lively traditional fair held in Kaza in July/August every year. A variety of goods and local produce is bartered and sold at the fair every year.
Lahaul Festival: Held in Keylong every July.
Gutor: Celebrated in the monasteries of Dhankar, Tabo and Ki in the month of October with prayer sessions and ritualistic dances.
Winter: With an average snowfall of 2 meters, Lahaul is cut off from the rest of the world during the winter months from November to May.
Best time to visit: May to October
HPTDC hotels, small hotels, camps with tented accomodation and guesthouses are available in all main villages including Keylong, Jispa, Tabo, Kaza and Kibber. HPTDC runs a Tourist Lodge in Kaza.
Protected Area Permit (PAP) for Foreign Nationals in Lahaul-Spiti
PAP (Protected Area Permit) is required (in addition to the Indian Visa) for Foreign Nationals visiting protected areas of Kinnaur or entering Spiti from Kinnaur via Reckong Peo. NRIs staying abroad for more than 6 months/ OCI or PIO card holders are also required to apply for PAP.
Partially Protected Areas under PAP: Pooh, Khab, Sumdo, Dhankar, Tabo Gompa, Kaza, Moorang and Dabling. Sangla Valley, Reckong Peo and Kalpa do not require a permit.
Permits can be obtained in 1 working day from:
- District Magistrate/ ADM (DM Office) from Shimla, Reckong Peo (Near Bus stand), Pooh.
- Sub-Divisional Magistrate – Rampur (opp. police station in main bazaar), Nichar, Kalpa, Kaza, Keylong, Udaipur
- Deputy Commissioner, Shimla, Kinnaur, Keylong or Kullu.
- Resident Commissioner of Himachal Pradesh, New Delhi.
- Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Delhi
- Government of Himachal Pradesh
Documents and Conditions:
- Restricted Area Application Form (Duly filled and signed)
- Photocopy of Passport
- Photocopy of valid Indian visa
- 3 Passport size photos
- Fee $30 for all nationalities
- Foreign Tourist has to be present with the original passport at the DM’s office
- Duration of visit: limited to validity of visa.
- Minimum members: 4 (individual tourists not permitted)
- Tour must be sponsored through a registered travel agent.
- Foreign nationals are not permitted to stay overnight between Jangi and Kaza.
Keeping multiple copies of the issued permit is advisable as one may have to submit it at the various checkpoints.
Inner Line Permit for Indian Nationals
Indian citizens who are not residents of those areas are required to obtain an Inner Line Permit. In certain check-posts a proof of identity may also suffice.