A sojourn into Spiti Valley can be therapeutic for the soul. The misty mountains, sanguine lakes, adrenaline-fuelled treks, humble hospitality, it’s an experience like no other! The difficult task of planning a Himachal holiday is fitting it all into one itinerary. You may have to give some a miss. Just ensure that Dhankar is not one of them.
The erstwhile capital of Spiti Valley not only houses an enchanting lake and a historic monastery but also has interesting places worth visiting in the neighbourhood. Here’s looking at three stopovers to include in your Lahaul-Spiti trip:
Dhankar literally means a fort on a cliff. Located at an altitude of 3894 metres above the Spiti Valley, the fort is best known for the Dhankar Monastery or Gompa, overlooking the confluence of Spiti and Pin Rivers. This ancient monastery was built using traditional materials like mud, stone and timber. Today, it has been declared one of the ‘100 Most Endangered Sites in the World’ by the World Monument Fund and preservation work is on.
In the meanwhile, a new monastery (with a road linking it to the old one) has been created in the village. It’s quite something to be on the same route used by the Dalai Lama during his visit to Dhankar!
And Chandratal may very well be the more famous tourist hotspot, but Dhankar Lake has a charm of its own. In your list of places to visit in Himachal, we recommend you include this freshwater lake located at an altitude of 4517 metres.
Barely 30 km from Dhankar and 50 km from Kaza, there’s a small hamlet called Tabo, situated on the banks of river Spiti. The Tabo Monastery (more than 1000 years old) is popularly known as the Ajanta of the Himalayas, as it houses ancient paintings that depict the life of Buddha, clay statues of bodhisattvas, etc. in Indo-Tibetan fusion styles. It has been declared a protected monument under the aegis of the Archaeological Survey of India.
At Tabo, it’s a great idea to step into the many caves that dot this Spiti Valley village. And you don’t have to be a monk to experience the serenity of meditating in these cosy chambers.
The distance from Delhi to Spiti Valley is about 750 km and it takes 12-13 hours by road. There are overnight buses from Delhi to Manali(shorter route) or Shimla, and from there to Kaza. You won’t regret the effort.
The village itself is sparsely populated. However, there’s a growing tourist interest in the place, courtesy its strategic location on the banks of the Pin Parvati River. The mud village has turned into the base camp for Pin Parvati and Pin Bhabha treks.
Did you know that the Pin valley is the base for Pin Valley National Park, which is the natural habitat of the Snow Leopard and Himalayan Ibex? Understandably, Spiti Valley tourism is doing its bit to make the place more tourist-friendly. It’s a work in progress, but right now, the allure of the Mud Village lies in its barren beauty and the indomitable spirit of its people.
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