A Responsible Travel to Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh, India

This summer we had a family of four (parents and two children on 5 and 7 years) travelling with us (Ethical Travel Portal) to Spiti Valley in India. Here is Anne Marie Davies reflection on their trip.

 

Spiti – the Hidden Valley

Spiti is located in Himachal Pradesh, a state in Northern in India. Spiti is part of the Himalayas, the youngest mountain range on the planet. Not only is the nature breathtaking; the rural communities are impressive with their culture, history and long traditions. This area is truly off the beaten track and you will not meet many other travellers. The best time to travel is from mid May to mid October. We travelled in June and July. Maximum Altitude is about 5000 meters, and wow – what a view!

 

Travel Responsibly with Ethical Travel Portal

Ethical Travel Portal focuses on green and responsible travel to various destinations. The trips are tailor made in cooperation with local partners who are specialists in their communities and use tourism as a tool to ‘create better places for people to live in and visit’. We were therefore comfortable that our trip would meet our expectations and at the same time benefit the local communities we would be visiting. And it certainly did!

Here are some pictures followed by text from our experience!

Traditional house in Spiti, India.  Photo©Anne Marie Davies / Ethical Travel Portal

 

We arrived in Delhi and our first was Shimla, the state capital in Himachal Pradesh. Driving from Shimla to remote Spiti we stop several places along the route to rest and acclimatize. Our first stop is in Sangla Valley, in the Kinneur district. This little village, Chitkul (3450m), is the last stop along the old trade route to Tibet. The houses and temples are build in traditional Kinnauri wood and stone style. There are many treks in this area, from easy walks along the valley river to more strenuous mountain climbs.

Nako village, India.  Photo©Anne Marie Davies / Ethical Travel Portal


Our next stop is picturesque Nako (3660 m). Although still in the Kinnaur district, Nako gives us a first taste of what lies ahead of us in Spiti, with its typical Buddhist houses.

Prayer wheels in Nako.  Photo©Anne Marie Davies / Ethical Travel Portal

 

Bumpy and hair rising roads, India.  Photo©Anne Marie Davies / Ethical Travel Portal

 

Spiti is very remote, and the only way to get there is along awe inspiring and at times hair-raising roads.

Tabo.  Photo©Anne Marie Davies / Ethical Travel Portal


Our first stop in Spiti is Tabo (3280m). Tabo is centered around Tabo Monastery, established in AD 996 and a World Heritage Site.

Tabo Monastery.  Photo©Anne Marie Davies / Ethical Travel Portal


Tabo Monastery. Behind the wooden doors opens a world of stunningly adorned sanctuaries containing some of the finest Indo-Tibetan art in the world.

Dhankar Monastery.  Photo©Anne Marie Davies / Ethical Travel Portal


Dhankar (3894m) and the ancient Dhankar Monastery perched precariously between unique wind eroded structures, recently declared as one of the 100 Most Endangered sites in the World by ‘The World’s Monument Fund’.

Horse ride along the Homestay Trail.  Photo©Anne Marie Davies / Ethical Travel Portal


Leaving Dhankar, we continue by foot and horse (or yak) for a few days on our Homestay Trail. We trek to the remote highland villages of Demul (4350m), Komic (the highest village in Asia at 4587m), and Langza (4400m). These small villages are all speckled with little gems, from old Monasteries to fossils dating back to over 200 million years and cultural performances.

View from highest point of our trip (5000 meters).  Photo©Anne Marie Davies / Ethical Travel Portal

 

The highest point of our trip, at 4950m. By this time the whole group is well acclimatized and luckily no one suffers from the high altitude.

Trekking the Homestay Trail. Photo©Anne Marie Davies / Ethical Travel Portal

 

Trekking in high altitude, on our way to our first Homestay in a small mountain village, Demul.

Meeting our hosts at the Homestay, Photo©Anne Marie Davies / Ethical Travel Portal

After a long days trek, we arrive at our next village, eager to meet our new hosts in Langza (4400m). After a days trek in the thin mountain air, soaking in the many spectacular views along the route, it’s always a very special experience arriving at a village and being welcomed by our host families with big smiles and a chai.

The Homestays work on a rotation basis, houses take turns accommodating tourists so that everyone benefits equally, ensuring direct economic benefits to the local communities while giving tourists a better understanding of the lifestyles of these hard working mountain folk. One of the main highlights of our trip was getting the chance to meet the friendly locals and interact in their everyday life.

Folk dance in Demul. Photo©Anne Marie Davies / Ethical Travel Portal

Folk dance in Demul, in stunning surroundings. It is always nice to see the local people performing. It certainly connect your experience with the place you are visiting.

Old man praying. Photo©Anne Marie Davies / Ethical Travel Portal

 

Celebration in Kaza. Photo©Anne Marie Davies / Ethical Travel Portal

Our last destination in Spiti is, Kaza (3800m), where we arrive the day of Dalai Lamas birthday and a celebration at the Monastery.

Leaving Spiti, ahead lies a long but scenic road to Manali. We cross two spectacular mountain passes, the Kunzum La (4551m) and the Rohtang La, catching a last glimpse of prayer flags.

The Kunzum La. Photo©Anne Marie Davies / Ethical Travel Portal

 We’re sad to leave, but content and enriched with a cultural encounter and experience we’ll carry with us forever. There are so many “add-on” values on this trip. From the people we met to the landscape we passed through. Our impressions are huge and the experiences were beyond our involved in tourism here really do benefit from it.

Written by Anne Marie Davies for Ethical Travel Portal

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