Lahaul & Spiti – full of natural scenery exhorting the tourists

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Lahaul & Spiti - Quick Facts

Area: 13,833 sq. Km.
Population: 31,528
Altitude: 10050 cm above sea level
Clothing: Summer- Light cotton, Winter- Heavy woollen
Season: October to March
Rainfall: 380 cm average
Languages: Hindi, Pahari & English

Lahaul & Spiti is a big district having international boundary with Tibet. It attained the status of a district in the year 1960. Till then it was merely a tehsil of Kullu Sub-division. The valleys. Mountains, glaciers, rivers, forests, pastures, gompas (monastries) and ancient buildings of the former ruling dynasty are the principal objects of study. The rugged awe-inspiring snow clad mountains are standing invitation to the hikers, mountaineers and adventurers. The entire district is full of natural scenery exorting the tourists and visitors to explore and imbibe its hidden grandeur. The customs, myths, beliefs and conventions of the simple unsophisticated people are the unique features of this border highland. Every village or a hamlet has a prayer flag fluttering over the Buddhist monastery. These shrines are the centers of the cultural life of the people that have influenced their religious beliefs for centuries and round which their social life revolves.

Origin of the Name of the District

Lahaul & Spiti, which now form, a district of Himachal Pradesh, bordering Tibet, were at one time separate Himalayan waziries or cantons of the Kullu sub-divisions, and Kullu itself formed a part of Kangra district of Punjab.As is clear from the name ‘Lahaul & Spiti’, the district comprises two different mountains tracts, one known as Lahaul and the other as Spiti. Hence the name of the district came into being with the formation of these two parts into a revenue district. The names, Lahaul & Spiti, have different origins.

Hiuen Tsiang stated Lahaul to be 1800 or 1900 li (575 or 610 Km) distant by road from the middle of Kiu-lu-to (Kulu). It is a gross overestimate as the first village in Lahaul is only about 70 kms from Sultanpur. Despite this error, whatever its source may be, Lahaul is clearly the country referred to here. But the Tibetan Li-yul has also ben identified by Rockhill with Khotan. If this is correct Hiuen Tsiang's placing Lo-u-lo at 1800 or 1900 li north of Kulu might be intelligible though an under-estimate. Probably Hiuen Tsiang confused the two countries as Li-yul (Khotan) and Lo-u-lo (Lahaul) in his estimate of distances, admittedly derived from hearsay.

By Air
Delhi is the most convenient city to access the Indian Himalayas, and there are flights to Shimla, Kullu, Leh and Chandigarh. Bhuntar airport in Kullu is the nearest airport for Lahaul & Spiti.

By Rail

Jogindernagar is the nearest narrow gauge railhead to Lahaul & Spiti. Apart from it Shimla & Chandigarh are two broad gauge railheads for Lahaul & Spiti. Private taxi and bus services are available from the station to Lahaul & Spiti.There are rail connections from Delhi to Shimla, Haridwar (near Rishikesh), Kathgodam (35 km from Naini Tal) and Ramnagar.

By Road

Lahul & Spiti can be accessed via two different locations: Sumdo in Kinnaur district for entry into Spiti valley and Manali in Kullu district for entry into Lahaul valley. Tourists can take the following routes to reach Lahaul & Spiti.
Shimla to Kaza covers distance of 412 km on a stretch drive of 20 hours that falls under Spiti region. This route is accessible throughout the year. Shimla to Keylong is another route covering distance of 375 km on a stretch drive of 18 hours that falls under Lahaul region. This route gets closed during the winter season and opens only for six months.
Keylong to Kaza is another route covering the distance of 185 km on a stretch drive of 6 hours. This route remains closed for more than 9 months in a year due to heavy snowfall.

In olden times Udaipur (2743 m) was known as Markul and so the name of local goddess is Markula Devi. The temple here is unique and famous for its wooden carving on its roof and ceiling. Its name was changed by Raja Udai Singh of Chamba. This place is situated near the confluence of Chenab and Mayar Nallah. This place is therefore a starting point for Mayar valley and further on to Zanskar and other peaks. This is a green area rather the whole Chenab valley is greener than the Lahaul valley. It has a rest house and some hotels and is a good resting place.
Some years back the road was only upto this point and from here the trekking expeditions to different areas used to start. Now the road is under construction beyond this place and the bus is goes upto Tindi. This road has now been connected up to Killar, which is the meeting point of another roads; one from Kishtwar (J&K) and from Chamba over the Sach pass.

Trilokinath Temple (4 kms)

Trilokinath means the Shiva. A temple is situated in the village which is about 4 km short of Udaipur on the left bank of Chenab River. Devotees from far off places come to pay their respects at this unique temple. This Shiva temple was given a look of Budhist shrine by Guru Padmasambhava by installing the 6 armed image of Avalokiteshvar. It is now sacred both to Hindus and Buddhists alike and attracts many pilgrims from both these communities. In August, a big festival named Pauri is held for three days when people including the sadhus and followers of various religious sects gather to receive the blessings of Lord Trilokinath.

Shansha (27 kms)
This is on the left bank of river Chandra-Bhaga (Chenab) at a distance of 27kms from Keylong on Udaipur road. The Geypan, a powerful deity of Lahaul is believed to be born here. A shrine dedicated to the deity has also been built in this village.

Sarchoo (116 kms)

It is the last border point between Himachal and Ladakh, where HPTDC put up a tented colony for the convenience of the touristsduring summer season. It is situated at a distance of 116 kms from Keylong.

Baralacha La (73 kms)

It is about 73 km from Keylong on Manali Leh road. The name means pass with cross roads on summit (roads from Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul join at the top). It is situated at 4883 m above sea level. There is no road yet from Spiti. Only a path exists. This is also the point of origin of Chandra, Bhaga and, Yunam rivers. They flow to three different directions through the Chandra, Bhaga and Lingti valleys.

Darcha (24 kms)

It is 24 km from Keylong on Leh road where a camping ground is available. From Darcha (3360 m) trekkers start their trek to Padem, via Shingola as well as Baralacha/Phirtsela. There is a police check-post for assistance. Beyond this point there are hardly any trees. Yotche and Zanskar Nallahs meet Bhaga River here from different directions.

Gemur (18 kms)

It is 18 kms from Keylong in Bhaga valley where devil dance is held during July in the Local Gompa. The place is situated on Manali-Leh highway.

Jispa (20 kms)
It is 20 km from Keylong on the bank of Bhaga river having a rest house and mountaineer hut. There is a big camping ground. Sufficient trout fish is available in the river.

Kokasar (21kms)

It is 21 km beyond Rohtang pass in Lahaul and is the coldest place in Lahaul. HRTC workshop, Rest House, police assistance and eating places are available during the season.

Sissu (30 kms)

It is on Keylong-Koksar road over 30 kms from Keylong. There is a big waterfall here. This is the seat of God Geypan, who is worshipped in the entire valley.

Tayul Gompa (6 kms)

Tayul Gompa is 6 kms. from Keylong and is one of the oldest monasteries of the valley having a big statue of Guru Padmasamhava about 5 m high and houses library of Kangyur having 101 volumes. In Tibetan language Ta-Yul means the chosen place. There is an interesting story behind this.

Shahshur Monastery (3 kms)

Situated on a hill about 3 kms, Far from Keylong towards north on the same slope During June/July this monastery attracts lot of visitors when Lamas perform devil dance. It was founded in the 17th century a.d. It belongs to red hat sect and is located among the blue pines. The paintings are represent the history of 84 Buddha's.

Kardang Monastery

It is about 5kms, from Keylong across Bhaga River. It is believed to be built in 12th century. The Monastery has a large library of Kangyur and Tangyur volumes of Budhist scriptures in Bhoti. Kardang village was once the capital of Lahaul.


Keylong (3340 m) is the district Headquarters of Lahaul Spiti on the main road to Leh over Rohtang. It is an oasis of green fields and willow trees, water streams surrounded with brown hills and snow capped peaks. There are hotels, tourist bungalows and rest houses to stay.

Guru Ghantal Monastery (4 kms)

This is on the left bank of Chandra river about 4 km. above Tandi and is believed to be the oldest Gompa of Lahaul having wooden structure with pyramidal roofs, wood carving and preserving the idols of Padmasambhava & Brajeshwari Devi. On the full moon night in mid-June a festival called "GHANTAL" is celebrated by Lamas & Thakurs together.

Tandi (8 kms)

Tandi is 8 kms short of Keylong and is situated at the confluence of Chandra & Bhaga Rivers. A legend says that there were two lovers, Chandra being the daughter of the Moon and Bhaga the son of the Sun god. To perform there eternal marriage, they decided to climb to the Baralacha La & from there they ran in opposite directions. Chandra being active and smart easily found her way &reached Tandi after covering the distance of 115 kms Soon Bhaga was found coming with great struggle through the narrow gorges to Tandi where consequently both met and the celestial marriage was performed. Bhaga covered about 60 kms, Distance which was very difficult.

Gondla (18 kms)

It is 18 kms from Keylong on the left bank of Chandra River. The location of royal houses of the village is interesting. In the month of July a fair is held when Lamas dance & enjoy. The Gompa of this village has historical significance and the fair attracts a large number of visitors. The residence of the Thakur of Gondla is an eight storey building of its own kind in the entire Lahaul valley. It is worth a visit. This is called Gondla castle or fort and was built in 1700 A.D.

Fairs and festivals symbolizes the whole meaning of life, even in the toughest condition of existence people forget all their worries and tensions to make most of the festivity. Especially in the mountainous region festival adds extra charm and beauty to nature. A large number of fairs and festivals are organized in Lahaul & Spiti. Apart from the regular Indian festivals the people of this place celebrates some of the famous festival based on their local gods and goddesses. To name a few Halda, Phagli, Gotshi are some of the important festivals of lahaul & Spiti celebrated during the month of January and February.

While travelling in Lahaul & Spiti, tourists must not forget to visit the Keylong market, which is famous for carpets, Kullu shawls and caps. For best products and affordable rates visitors can shop from state government owned shop besides local shops. Himachal Emporium, Local Self Help Group and Bhuttico are some of the government recognized shops located in the market.

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