Quick Bytes :
Location : Himachal Pradesh
Languages : Himachali, Hindi
Altitude : 18000-20000 feet from sea level
Climate : Extremely cold
Temperature : Ranges between 0 and10 degree Celsius; reaches well below 0 degree Celsius in winters
Major Attractions : Khardong Monastery, Keylong
Best Visiting Time : Months between June and September
Lahaul & Spiti is a district of Himachal Pradesh and shares its international border with Tibet. Laced with fascinating mountains, valleys, rivers, glaciers, and deep green forests The place's skyline is dotted with a number of monasteries (gompas) and several ancient structures that speak about its royal History. Its rugged topography poses a challenge to trekkers and mountaineers. Laden with immense natural beauty, it beseaches the tourists to unveil its hidden treasures.
Gondla : Framed by river Chandra, Gondla is known for its royal houses. A monastery present in its premises is historically significant and at the time of a fair, organized in July, draws a large number of tourists. The chief of the valley lives at a special eight-storey building; it is also referred to as Gondla castle. This structure of 18th century can also be visited.
Guru Ghantal Monastery : With Chandra River as its neighbor, this monastery offers some pleasurable sights. This gompa is considered to be the oldest one in the area and is adorned with a wooden structure. The roofs are built in the shape of a pyramid and wood carving is used on a large scale. In the interiors, images of Brajeshwari Devi and Padmasambhava have been kept. Ghantal is a Festival that is celebrated in the month of June; at this time several llamas and chiefs of the valley gather and celebrate the festivities together.
Khardong Monastery : Located five kilometers from Keylong, this monastery is another attraction of Lahaul. It is the largest gompa of the city and belongs to the 12th century. A spacious library is present and houses numerous Buddhist scriptures. Other striking features of the monastery are musical instruments, drums, and colossal images of Lord Buddha.
Keylong : This district headquarters is located enroute to Leh. The place is enthused with tress of willow, a few streams of water and snow-peaks. You can stay at one of the bungalows, rest houses, and hotels present in the area. A museum and an auditorium present the sites worth-visiting. The museum is a showcase of tribal art and archeological excavations. Manuscripts written in Bhoti, Thanka paintings and Tankri documents are the other items with which the museum is accessorized with. It remains open on all days except on Tuesdays.
Koksar : Visit this coldest place of Lahaul which is located at 21 kilometers from Rohtang Pass.
Tayul Monastery : The 12 feet statue of Padamsambhava is the highlight of this gompa. The monastery belongs to Dugpa sect and was founded in the 17th century. A library with Thankas depicting Buddha's life is present within the gompa.
Rohtang Pass : The pass segregates the area of Lahaul from that of Kullu. As the pass has been responsible for many deaths and has played a hazardous role in taking toll of property as well, it is aptly called the "path of dead bodies". Its summit is endowed with green meadows with an array of alpine flowers. As you go to the left side of the pass, you will come across a lake called Sarkund. It is visited by a plethora of tourists in the month of September and plunge themselves in the sacred water of Sarkund, believing that the bath will cure them of any kind of disease. The pass overlooks Sonapani glacier. In the vicinity, you can also see the Gyephang la peaks that are supposed to be the abode of Jamulu and Gyephang.
Khoksar : This village is the gateway to Lahaul. It carries an elevation of about 3100 meters and in winters, remains covered under the sheet of ice. Water of Chandra River freezes in winter and the village becomes one of the coldest places of the valley.
Sissu : Another picturesque village that is located on the banks of Chandra is Sissu. You have to traverse a height of about 3100 meters in order to reach here. The area is interlaced with the trees of poplars and willows. The vegetation here is so dense that sun rays are unable to penetrate here even in summer. The gamut of hues presented by several species of rose and other flowering plants is a treat to watch.
Darcha : Present at the junction of Yotche and Zangskar nullah, Darcha is a gateway to places like Shunkun la, Phirtse la, and Baralacha la. It is an ideal place for trekkers and mountaineers. Rest houses of any kind are not present here so you have to look for some nearby area for a stay.
Suraj Taal : Baralacha la, a summit on a height of about 16000 feet accommodates Suraj Taal. With the approach of winter season, the lake water freezes completely under snow lumps while in summers, its characteristic blue water flows with full vigor.
Chandra Taal : Resting peacefully at an altitude of 14000 feet, Chandra Taal is a part of a green plain. Within the center of the lake, a strip of land is present. This water body is about a kilometer in length and is linked with many legends. As the place is rich with grass, shepherds use it as a halting place. The glacial remains are covered with alpine vegetation. The placid waters of the Taal are crystal clear.
Trilokinath Temple : Exhibiting a combination of Kannauji and Kashmiri styles of architecture, Trilokinath Temple belongs to the reign of Lalitaditya, a ruler of Kashmir. Originally a Shiva temple, it was later transformed into a Buddhist shrine. This pilgrimage place is frequented by both Buddhist as well as Hindu devotees. The classical style with which the temple is characterized by a stone is adorned with segmented 'amalka' and lack of mandapas.
Markula Devi Temple : This highly embellished temple is a nice place to be visited in Lahaul. The temple architecture was completed in two phases. While its façade, pillared mandapa, and ceiling were built earlier, statues on either side of the façade, architraves, and window panels belong to the later period. On wall panels, you will see scenes taken from sacred texts like Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Yuddhakand.
Adventurous Activities :
Trekking : If you had thought of pursuing trekking at Lahaul a few years ago, it would not have been a good idea as the lack of infrastructure and limited knowledge made it an upheaval task to the trekkers. But,the situation has improved a lot now. The availability of tinned food and construction of a few roads has eased out the situation. Trekking amidst snow-clad peaks, majestic glaciers, gurgling rivers and spectacular gorges can be an unforgettable experience for you. Go for this adventurous activity in summer season and chalk out the entire plan in detail beforehand in order to make most out of your trip.
Paragliding : The ideal locations where paragliding can be enjoyed are Dalang, Trilokinath, Jispa, and Sumnam. If you wish, you can also pursue a training course.
Camping : While going from Leh to Manali, a place called Sarchu is present and is a nice destination for setting camps. Other places like Jaspa, Darcha, Sissu, Tandi, and Koksar are also ideal for camping. The presence of waterfalls, lakes, snowy mountains make camping at Sissu a delightful experience.
Sking : If you reach Lahaul in winter,you can enjoy skiing. The city offers a lot to skiers who can pursue their popular sport at Patseio, Keylong, and Udaipur. There are many ski slopes scattered at different places; some of these also come with accommodations. Sumnam, Kardang, Gondhala, and Trilokinath have nice ski slopes.
Festivities are part and parcel of the ice-laden land of Lahaul :
Ladarcha Fair : It invites a large congregation of traders from Spiti, Ladhak, and Rampur Busher. Kaza is the main venue of the festivities; a large crowd of visitors throng in order to have a glimpse of barter activities.
Pauri Fair : Participated by people from different communities and religious sentiments, Pauri occupies a prominent place in the heart of its denizens. The devotees pay their obeisance to Lord Shiva by making circumambulation of temples and offer ghee/oil to be used for lighting lamps. At night, they indulge in dancing and merriment.
In addition, Tsheshu Fairs, Festival of Light, Fagli, Gochi, and Tribal Fair are some other important occasions that the folklore celebrate to add spice to their otherwise rugged and harsh lives.
Keylong is an excellent place to buy handicraft items, shawls, local tweeds, Lois, readymade garments, pashmina, and pullas. These accessories can be brought from Himachal Emporium and Bhuttico.
To cater to the needs of thousands of visitors arriving here every year, a number of Rest Houses (by PWD), Circuit Houses, and Forest Houses are present at Lahaul and Spiti. A Tourist Complex at Keylong is also a nice option for you; it offers services at reasonable prices. You can also book a number of other hotels at Keylong viz Hotel Valley View, Tashi Deleg, Hotel Gyespa, and Hotel Deykid.
Lahaul stands out as sui generis tourist destination and there are several treasures that wait impatiently to be explored by tourists.