Himachal Pradesh called as Dev Bhoomi (Abode of Gods) is one of the India’s most beautiful state, which extends from the Shivalik range to the Greater Himalayas. Towards north of the state is a snow capped Trans Himalayan district comprising of two major valleys Lahaul & Spiti. The district is lying on the Hindustan-Tibet border. It is a tribal district with unique Tibetan Buddhist culture. The district has wide variety of attractions like snow covered mighty mountain peaks, adventurous treks, rugged terrains, imposing monasteries, perennial rivers, beautiful lakes, glaciers and forts. The existing topography of the valleys is unique in nature and beyond one’s imagination. Rohtang Pass (3980 meters above mean sea level), is the gateway to Lahaul valley and it connects Lahaul with the Kullu district. This valley is also approachable from Ladakh through Baralacha Pass (4891 meters above mean sea level) and from Spiti valley through Kunzam Pass (4551 meters above mean sea level).The Baralacha Pass is an important feature, which consists of a high neck of land connecting the central mountain with the main Himalayas and the name connotes “Pass with cross roads on summit” that is roads from Zanskar, Ladakh and Lahaul meet at the top. The Spiti valley is connected through Kinnaur District with Shimla by Hindustan-Tibet road and from Kullu district through the Rohtang Pass and Kunzam Pass. River Chandra on the South-East side and river Bhaga on the North-West of the Baralacha Pass confluence at Tandi to form Chanderbagha/Chenab river in Lahaul valley and flows into Podar valley of Kashmir. The Chandra and Bagha rivers rise from the beautiful lakes Chandertal and Surajtal (lake of the sun).
The mountain ranges in the Spiti valley belongs to the Great and Middle Himalayas. The Spitian peaks are enthralling and it is possible to trek and climb during summer months which makes Spiti as mountaineer’s paradise. The major portion of Lahaul & Spiti district is a cold desert, where bare rocks, steep slopes and gorges take visitors by surprise. The spiti has flat and broad valley bordered by vertical cliffs. Spiti river runs in the Spiti valley and is fed by glaciers and is a perennial one. Lingti and Pin rivers are left and right bank tributaries of the Spiti river. Both the valleys could also be called as valley of glaciers. Bara Shigri (boulder covered ice) is the largest glacier in the Lahaul valley. Other important glaciers are Sonapari and Perad near the Spiti border. During season times, the vegetation makes the valleys more beautiful. This district is very rich in valuable medicinal plants and rare aromatic plants. The vegetative cover of the Spiti valley is comparatively lower than the Lahaul valley. This district is also endowed with wide variety of rare animal species like Ibex, Snow Leopard, Musk Deer, Himalayan Fox, Himalayan Blue Sheep, Himalayan Brown Bear etc. Climatically this district falls in temperate zone and winter period extends from November to April followed by summer season. The amount of snowfall is very high compared to rainfall in this district. Snowfall adds to the beauty of this valley in the winter and is the main source of water for irrigation in summer.
The district is sparsely populated with a density of 2 persons per square kilo meter. Major portion of the district is cold desert. The rugged mountains with high peaks, deep gorges, severe cold upto minus 30°C, make the district inhospitable for settlement. People generally speak Lahauli, Bhoti and Hindi languages. Hinduism and Buddhism are the two main religions in this district. Spiti is called as land of lamas where Buddhism predominates. People are hard working and agriculture is their predominant occupation.
This district has excellent potentials for spiritualism and adventure tourisms. Peculiar topography of the Lahaul & Spiti valley attracts more number of tourists every year. The landscape is sculptured in a unique way. The mighty peaks, glaciers and lakes provide unimaginable beauty and charm to the tourists. This is the best place in the world for mountaineering and trekking. The good infrastructure facilities such as road connectivity, tele-communication, boarding & lodging facilities, etc. make tourism more attractive in this district. This is the paradise for worshippers of nature also. But this district has not been visited by more number of domestic tourists. A large number of Indian tourists visit upto Rohtang Pass from Manali and they do not cross beyond it. Every year on an average 14,000 number of foreign tourists visits this district in the season time between May to October. Generally foreign tourists cross this district from Manali or Shimla via Kinnaur, Spiti and they reach Leh. Many of them cross this district on foot, cycles, motor cycles etc.
This district is attractive round the year due to heavy snow falls in the winter and due to lush greenery in summer. This district is better known and is best for its adventure tourism throughout the world and that is why it is the destination for many foreign tourists. The number of foreign tourists who visited this district in last 5 years is as under:
No. Of Foreign Tourists
Among these, tourists from European nations are very high in number. The unique, unimaginable topography of this district enthralls the foreign tourists. This is the best destination for adventure tourism, because there is wide scope for river rafting in the Chanderbagha river, rock climbing, trekking, angling, para-gliding during summer season. One can see snow capped approachable mountains round the year in this district and during winter one can easily watch Ibex, Snow Loepard, Snow Cock, Snow Fox inside the valley. There are many beautiful camping sites such as Sarchu, Darcha, Jispa, Gemur, Tandi, Koksar, Sissu, Chota Dara which gives cherishable memories. In winter heli-skiing could easily be done in this district. The guides and instructors from the mountaineering institute inside the valley and at Manali offer safe and adventurous rock climbing and trekking guidance.
While Lahaul valley aptly suits for adventure tourism, Spiti is best for its religious tourism. The thousands year old imposing monasteries (locally called Gompas) in the mountains, are propagating Buddhism. The Spiti is high altitude cold desert and could easily be called as Fossil Park of the world, where every rock is a fossil.
The famous Buddhist monasteries are Tabo, Kye and Dhankar. The Tabo monastery is called as –Ajanta of the Himalayas for its Mural paintings and sculptures. This is the oldest and very famous monastery. Kye is the largest monastery in the valley and is also famous for its beautiful Murals, Stuco images, thankas, rare manuscripts etc. The Dhankar monastery is known for its citadel and historical importance.
‘Raid de Himalayas’ motor rally is held every year in this district. This is one of the adventurous sport activity carried out by the Indian tourists/participants. This district is best suited for Jeep Safari also.
Overall, the Lahaul & Spiti district is the best destination not only for foreigners but also for Indian tourists. It gives lifelong cherishable memory to the visitors. This is the place for rest/relaxation from the cacophony of city life for city dwellers. The unimaginable topography, enthralling peaks, gorges rivers & lakes, serene atmosphere, the great depositories of Buddhist faiths and art treasures will remain evergreen memories to visitors of this unexplored land.
This district could be best explored from April/May to Oct/Nov. For more information about the place, accommodation, infrastructure and other facilities please visit on web siteshttp://hplahaulspiti.gov.in and http://himachaltourism.gov.in.
Contributed by Sh R. Selvam, IAS Former Deputy Commissioner of District Lahaul & Spiti.