The Himalayas do not need much introduction, yet in this vast ocean of endless space there lie remote hidden havens that catch our imagination and enthrall us with their splendors. The western Himalayas and its hidden valleys are the focus of this trip. The Himalayan Kaleidoscope starts in the capital of Delhi and takes us to Shimla, now the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh and earlier the winter capital during the days of the British Raj. We head onto the apple valley of the Himalayas and further into the high deserts of Spiti. Spiti lay isolated and closed to the outside world till as late as 1992, when it was first opened up for travelers. A well preserved Buddhist heritage, unique high altitude ecosystem and an isolation that transcends the barriers of time leaves the traveler spell bound by the magic of what we like to call the Spiti experience. The Spiti Kaleidoscope is the perfect blend of the myriad aspects of Spiti’s geo-climatic and socio-cultural heritage along with a mix of soft adventure to tickle your senses. This trip has been specifically designed with the aim of showcasing to you, within the available time “window”, a fairly comprehensive Spitian kaleidoscope.
Lying in the Trans- Himalayas, the region borders Tibet in East and Ladakh in the north and bears stark ecological and cultural similarities to its neighbours. We explore the mystical hidden treasures of this valley, come face to face with Tibetan Buddhism in practice. Home to some of the oldest Buddhist monasteries and temples in the world, this trip provides an indepth insight into Spitian life, culture and Buddhist heritage. We traverse along Spiti’s (and Asia’s) highest settlements adorned by unique and ancient Buddhist monasteries and temples dating back to over a 1000 years and encased in legend and folklore. The homestay accommodation along the trail further enriches the experience by giving one an authentic understanding of the life and culture in a Spitian home. Your hosts are the local people of Spiti, accommodating you in their homes to enhance your sojourn in Spiti. We cross 2 spectacular passes to leave this valley to enter the lush green and beautiful Kullu valley.
The essence of this journey lies in the subtle linkages that are built within the very fabric of this trip that ensures that the journey has minimum impacts and maximum gains for the region. This journey makes travel meaningful and beneficial for the communities, environment and the travellers. This trip redefines the conventional form of travel and gives an ingenuous essence to the spirit of travelling with a difference. From being a carbon neutral trip to being completely managed and run by the local communities this is one journey that merges conservation and travel holistically.
Registration can be requested for group travel or for self-travel. For group travel, registration is not binding. Upon reaching the minimum number of members necessary for the formation of the group, usually 4 or 6 people, you will be asked for confirmation of booking and payment of a deposit.
1° Day: Delhi
Arrive into Delhi airport. Meet our representative outside the terminal and transfer to the Hotel. In the afternoon go on a guided tour of the Lutyens New Delhi, drive past the Parliament House, Presidents House and India gate. Visit the famous Humayun’s Tomb, an architectural marvel. Terminate your Delhi city tour at the Qutb Complex -visit the five story Qutb Minar, marvel at the Iron Pillar and return back to Hotel.
Overnight in Delhi.
2° Day: Delhi – Kalka – Shimla
We get up early today and catch the morning train to Kalka which lies at the foothills of the Himalayas. The journey crosses the farming hinterland of India till we reach the foothills. At Kalka, we change trains and although we stick to the same mode of travel we narrow down the gauge. The train ride from Kalka to Shimla is a journey through time and one that is bound to tingle the nostalgic romantic in you. This narrow gauge train also popularly known as the ‘toy train’ takes us from the foothills to the middle Himalayas through some beautiful scenery and a total of 102 tunnels. The longest tunnel is near Barog and is 1.14 Kms long and continued to be the second longest tunnel in Indian railways for a long time. It is said that the creator of this tunnel made a minor mistake in its alignment and for this reason he committed suicide. The toy train journey begins at Kalka and goes through Dharampur, Solan, Kandaghat, and eventually to the Queen of hill stations, Shimla. The train ride is also a UNESCO heritage site and was completed in the year 1903. We reach Shimla by the evening and settle into our hotel which is slightly out of Shimla in beautiful environs. If interested one can take an evening stroll around the area around the Hotel where there are some lovely walks.
Overnight in Shimla. (B)
3° Day: Shimla
Today take one day rest in Shimla before entering the Spity Valley. Shimla is a bustling hill station set up on seven hills and was regarded as the Queen of the hills due to its natural beauty and architectural character. It served as the summer capital of the British during the days of the Raj who desired to re-create the British environs and cultural life here. The weather, surroundings and the general mood of the place fitted well with their tastes. The town has grown exponentially after it became the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh, which was formed in the year 1968 after it was split from Punjab. However, Shimla still retains some of its old charm although it is on a bit of a downward spiral due to the haphazard and unplanned development that it is witnessing. However, we can still say that it continues to mesmerize many a travelers. The Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (Erstwhile Viceregal Lodge), the regions of Wildflower hall and Mashobra, The Mall, Jakhu temple, Forest road walk, strawberry hills, etc are places which continue to give one a glimpse into a distant past.
Overnight in Shimla. (B)
4° Day: Shimla – Kalpa
Today we travel from Shimla to Kalpa (private jeep 8-9 hours drive) via the apple growing belt of the State to the Satluj valley. We follow the Satluj for a while till Puwari from where we start the ascent for Kalpa through some lovely sections of forests. Kalpa offers some beautiful views of the Kinner Kailash Range.
Overnight in Kalpa. (B)
5° Day: Kalpa – Tabo
Early morning drive to Tabo (approx. 7 hrs. drive). We leave Kalpa and the beautiful view of the Kinner Kailash to head to Tabo (7 to 8 hours). The journey today takes us from the lush Satluj Valley into the start desert landscape of the Spiti valley. The drive is spectacular as we drive along what is commonly known as one of the World’s Most Dangerous Roads. We will cross Nako enroute and if keen, we can stop for a quick visit of the Nako lake.
Overnight at Tabo.(B)
6° Day: Tabo – Dhankhar – Pin Valley Park
Tabo is famous for its monastery, popularly known as the Ajanta of the Himalayas that celebrated 1000 years in 1996. We visit the monastery today and head on further to Dhankhar. Dhankhar was the erstwhile capital of Spiti. Dhankhar also houses an ancient Monastery perched precariously between unique wind eroded structures. Remnants of the Dhankhar Fort, which housed the royal family of Spiti, still remain. A visit to the monastery, fort and other subsidiary temples leaves one spell bound at the traditional architectural marvels. The monastery has some interesting wall murals and thangkas, which are in an urgent need for restoration. The Dhankhar Monastery was recently declared as one of the 100 Most Endangered sites in the World, by ‘The World’s Monument Fund’. We with our partners have been working closely with the monastery to try and raise funds for its restoration. Today you will have a rare chance to assist to a Bhuchens performance. The Bhuchens are a unique sect of minstrel lamas who were the followers of Tholdon Gyalpo (a Buddhist mystic) who invented this art form in the 11th century in Tibet. It is a rare Tibetan Buddhist tantric performance to get rid of evil spirits and is now only found in the Spiti valley. Later we head into the Pin valley and further to the buffer of the Pin Valley National Park to a unique village dedicated to meditating monks and nuns!!
Overnight in Pin Valley National Park. (B,D)
7° Day: Pin Valley – Demul
Today we visit the Kungri monastery in pin valley and head onto Demul village (2 to 3 hours). Demul is a unique village and perhaps one of the greenest villages in the Himalayas. A number of initiatives ranging from decentralized green energy to solar passive houses to greenhouses
to various livelihood, conservation and education initiatives to name a few. Later in evening we retire to our Homestays for the night.
Overnight in Demul. (B,L,D)
8° Day: Demul
Today we spend the day at Demul. We have the option of hiking to a spectacular vantage spot close to 5000 mts from where one can get a panoramic view of the Spiti and spot close to 18 villages on a clear day. If you are interested, you can volunteer with village activities like farming, cattle herding, construction etc. or explore the village and understand more about development works in Spiti. In the evening we will experience an evening folk expressions which give us an insight into Spiti’ culture. The village folk will showcase their traditional form of dance accompanied by songs played by the musicians using their unique traditional instruments. We are promoting these art forms to ensure their conservation and as a source of income generation for the local community especially the women and musicians (who belong to the lower castes) as well as to enable an enhancement in their social status.
Overnights in Demul. (B,L,D)
9° Day: Demul – Komic
Today you have a chance to experience a Yak safari (5 to 6 hours) across the alpine grazing pastures of the village livestock and the hunting ground of the snow leopard. Visit the Komic monastery and head to the Komic village (Asia’s highest village). Once your settled in and if your keen you can explore the Komic village and take a walk down to the fields to get a better understanding of the intricate irrigation systems and agricultural practices in the highest villages of Asia.
Overnight in a homestay in Komic.(B,L,D)
10° Day: Komic – Kaza
If you’re an early riser take a walk down to the fields if you didn’t get the time the evening before. After breakfast head onto Hikkim – Asia’s highest post office and send off a postcard to family back home. Visit Langza village and head back to Kaza for the night. Back in the days, Langza used to be a village specialized in Pottery. But nowadays, there is only one potter left. Allow yourself a visit to this last surviving potter, and try out the potter’s wheel yourself! You can play with clay and learning the basics of traditional Spiti pottery, make your own Spiti Souvenir! Visit Kee monastery and Kibber if time permits. Head back to Kaza subsequently. If you wish (optional cost) you can sign up for a cooking class. Learn how to cook delicious momos or other Spitian delicacies with Dolma, our very own local chef! Take a little bit of Spiti back with you, literally :)
Overnight in Kaza (B,L)
11° Day: Kaza – Pangmo Monastry
Today we drive an hour and a half out of Kaza to a nunnery where we will spend the day with the Nuns and experience the life of a Spiti nun up close. We will learn of the difficult conditions under which the nunnery was formed while the day will be spent accompanying them during their prayers, while they cook, while they debate Buddhist philosophy and while they study. We will also learn a bit of Bhoti (Tibetan script) and witness Buddhism in practice.
Overnight in Pangmo Monastry (B,L,D)
12° Day: Pangmo Monastry – Naggar
Spend the day immersing yourself in the daily chores of a nun. Meditate, relax, cook, learn and just be.
Overnight in Pangmo Monastry (B,L,D)
13° Day: Pangmo – Manali – Naggar
Transfer to Naggar (approx. 9 hrs jeep drive). Today we bid farewell to the Spiti valley and follow the Spiti river all the way up to its origin. Visit the Chandratal en route if time permits and the road is open
We follow the graphic valley of the Chandra river and continue past Batal, Chhatru, Gramphu and over the Rohtang pass (separating Kullu from the Lahaul valley), from where we trasnsition from the Trans- Himalayas to the Greater Himalayas. A stark contrast and a pertinent lesson in geography as we see first hand the transition from a leeward (rain-shadow) side to a rainfed area. The lush green meadows, the striking flora and the pine, cedar and oak trees make for a welcome scenery change form the stark rugged back country terrain of the Trans-Himalayas to the verdure of the Greater Himalayas.
We head an hour out of Manali to Naggar which is our halt for the night. Manali was once a small village is now a bustling hill station crowded with tourists lining up to visit the Snow point (Rohtang pass). The history of the place has major significance in
Indian mythology as this is the center of the universe and the name of the town is derived from Manu the great Hindu sage who gave the Hindu Law – “Manusmriti”.
Overnight in Naggar.(B)
14° Day: Naggar
We can spend the day exploring Naggar which is home to the famous art gallery of the Russian Painter and Tibetologist, Roerich. The Naggar castle is another attraction here, which is now a government run hotel.
Overnight in Naggar.(B)
15° Day: Naggar – Kullu – Delhi
Transfer to Kullu Airport for your flight to Delhi and from there take your International flight. (B)
All the itinerary has been designed in order to promote direct or indirect benefits for local communities, environment and cultural heritages. When possible we have selected traditional accommodations sensible to social and environmental issues, following general principles and practices of responsible tourism. The tour is designed to include the activities of various local and tribal communities, through the use of a number of local homestays, which get economic support from the trip. A stay in a local house should be a must during your visit to Spiti. Not only because living with a local family of Spiti will be the highlight of your trip but also because the Homestays contribute 30% to 50% of annual incomes for homestay families, now an essential supplemental source of income in the face of increasing climatic changes affecting agricultural patterns and crop yields. Homestays work on a rotational mechanism and ensure equitable benefits to all strata of the village community. Homestays in Spiti were started in 2004, and this tour also helps to conserve traditional architecture and cultural heritage. For this tour Conscious journeys partners with Ecosphere, a social enterprise that is a collaborative effort and co-owned by the local community of Spiti. 100% of revenues generated from your trip to Spiti go towards supporting projects that help towards a more sustainable development of Spiti.
The optional add on activities such as an evening of folk expressions, a Bhuchen performance, learning local pottery or how to spin yak wool into ropes, or learning meditative Buddhist art forms, to name a few, are not only extremely fascinating insights into the local heritage and art forms but also provide an incentive to these artists to conserve this age old heritage passed on from generation to generation. Over the years Ecosphere has worked with various artists and women groups on design interventions, product development and activities which travelers can participate in during their time in Spiti. You can purchase traditional handicraft at the eco-shop Kaza where you can take souvenir back to your Country.
This trip to Spiti redefines the conventional form of travel and gives an ingenuous essence to the spirit of traveling with a difference. From definitely being one of the most memorable trips of a lifetime to being a carbon positive trip to creating additional livelihoods and revenues for the local communities, this is a journey that merges conservation and travel. What if your travels could also generate a positive karmic footprint?
Moreover, your contribution of 70 euros will support development projects in favour of one of the most marginalized tribal communities of India. Tribal communities are still at the margin of Indian society and for this reason two are the main projects financed: 1) to conserve biological and cultural diversity 2) to promote the formal education of children belonging to Kattunayakan community of the Nilgiri district of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
As a cold mountain desert, the weather in Spiti is almost confusing! The sun’s rays are harsh enough to burn your skin, while shaded areas remain cool enough to wear a jacket. Mornings and evenings could be quite cold. Carry with you appropriate warm clothing especially for the evening. A layered wardrobe probably makes the most sense. Good walking shoes or hiking boots are essential even if you are not hiking. Because of the altitude, a hat or cap and a good pair of sunglasses are essential. Because of the long distances between towns and villages bring the medicines you’ll need along with some first-aid supplies. A good flashlight (torch), water bottle and polarizing filter for your camera will also come in very handy. A backpack is necessary to carry essentials/cameras while you are on local excursions. Monasteries and temples are places of worship, so you should be dressed accordingly. Admission might be denied to men and women wearing short pants/skirts, sleeveless t-shirts/blouses.
This itinerary offers good opportunities for cultural exchange, adventure, hiking, wildlife spotting and moderate trekking. However it is not fit for everyone, due to moderate trekking and altitude.
The high altitude of Spiti (3300-5000 meters) needs considerable acclimatization for every traveller, whether or not it’s your first time to such an altitude. It’s best to make your journey up slowly via Shimla. Since few people have been to such altitudes, it is hard to know who may be affected by high altitude sickness. There are no specific factors such as age, sex, or physical condition that co- relate with susceptibility to altitude sickness. Some people get it and some people don’t, and some people are more susceptible than others. If one has not travelled to these altitudes before, it is recommended that you consult your doctor. We usually advise dosage of Diamox 2/3 days before reaching Kaza as a safe precautionary for this trip, however please consult your doctor before considering to take this medication as it does have side effects. Those with lung or heart conditions, or known breathing problems, are advised to consult their doctor before journeying up to the valley. Roads to Spiti and within Spiti are rough and mostly un-metaled hill roads. Please be warned that while the experience is exhilarating it is not the most comfortable. Persons with medical conditions that could worsen with such road travel are advised they consult their doctor. If you have any doubt please check with your physician to confirm that you are healthy to travel. Inform your doctor where you are going to see if there are any special concerns. Because of the climate and general lack of medical facilities in the villages, you should be reasonably fit before departure.
A conscious approach to travel requires a considerable capacity and willingness to adapt and adjust to the local environment and culture. If you wish to travel with us we request you to be open enough to experience local culture, religious and traditions without bias and pre-conceived ideas you might have before the departure and which belong to our Western cultural way of thinking. Exploring with fresh eyes, with patience and openness, you will be able to access the real essence of the cultural heritages and spirituality through the places and people you are going to meet; if you are ready to do this effort you will really enjoy the beauty of the rich culture and religiousness of Spiti Valley, the extraordinary of the nature, the solemnity of Buddhist monasteries.
During this tour we have selected comfortable but very simple guesthouses with clean and comfortable room with attached bath (running hot and cold water) and western toilet. When possible in the villages we provide you with a clean and comfortable room in a local house with environment friendly dry composting toilets squat toilets. In Pangmo you will be guest in a nunnery.
Private vehicles o mini-buses with AC according to the number of participants for all the itinerary from Delhi to Udaipur.
The summer months from late May to late September are the best time to visit Spiti. Spiti remains practically cut off from the rest of India for 6 months of the year. Thick Himalayan snow blocks the mountain passes, making it almost impossible for road transport to pass through, even on the Shimla-Kinnaur route. With only 250 days of sunshine in a year, winter in Spiti is a harsh affair.