Places Covered: Delhi – Shimla – Narkanda – Sangla – Chitkul – Nako – Tabo – Kaza – Rangrik – Keylong – Manali – Chandigarh – Delhi.
The former kingdom Spiti, “the forbidden land”, was closed for foreign travelers for decades. Here, in the seclusion of the Indian Himalayas on the border with Tibet, people have been able to preserve Tibetan culture in its original state until today. The significant monasteries of Tabo, Lhalung, Dhankar and Key are impressive testimonies of Buddhism and are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The people here, the Spiti’s, still live firmly in their old Buddhist traditions in the midst of a magnificent high mountain landscape. The desert landscape is repeatedly interrupted by fertile oases, surmounted by snow-covered six-thousand and flowed through the emerald-green ribbon of the Spiti River and its tributaries. By jeep and on foot, we explore this fantastic region that is so reminiscent of Tibet.
The ancient kingdoms of Kinnaur and Spiti, nestled on the Indo-Tibetan border offer spectacular scenery. This region of high mountains and narrow valleys was part of ancient western Tibet. Rediscovered, the Buddhist artistic heritage it holds, almost a thousand years old, today offers the most extraordinary examples of medieval Tibetan art. Starting from Shimla the ancient summer capital of British India, you will cross the lush Sangla Valley before hitting the cold deserts of Lahaul and Spiti. Landscapes will change from green to barren, the skies will come in many hues, and snow capped peaks will dare you to conquer them. You will cross traditional villages meeting people living in a world of their own, tending to their fields and livestock and always welcoming of even strangers. You will be touched by the spirituality of the region, even as you have a great adventure all along.
Upon arrival in New Delhi we will be transferred to our hotel. After a break, we will visit Old Delhi, as Jama Masjid, Red Fort (out side only), Rickshaw ride at Chadini Chowk, Raj Ghat and India Gate. Overnight at hotel Florence Inn.
Today is all about the Indian Railways. At noon we arrive at the Shatabdi Express Kalka. Here it is necessary to change to the “Toy Train”. On an adventurous and promising route, the narrow-gauge railway winds up to 2,000 m to Shimla, the largest and most famous hill station in India. Overnight hotel Woodville Palace.
For a whole day we enjoy the quiet and idyllic atmosphere of the popular resort, which lies at an altitude of 2,130 m. on a sickle-like ridge and a magnificent panorama of the surrounding countryside to the eternally snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas. We visit the old Viceregal Lodge – the former summer residence of the British colonial government – a still magnificent estate, kept in the Elizabethan style. Of course we do not miss a visit to the Jakhoo Temple. Rest of the day at leisure.
Our overland safari begins! From Narkanda, which is already at 2,700 m, and visit to Rampur Palace, we reach Saharan – once the summer residence of Bhushar Rajas. Especially impressive is the Bhimakali temple complex – breathtaking because of its size and its beautiful location in front of the snow-covered ice giants of the Himalayas in the Sutlej valley. Elegant curved slate roofs alternate with golden spires that sparkle in the sunlight. Overnight at Hotel Srikhand.
Continue on the Hindustan-Tibet Road, formerly the main trade route to and from Tibet. This spectacular route is carved deep into the rock and leads along the wild Sutlej River, one of the four rivers that originate in the region of sacred Mount Kailash in Tibet. Our destination, the idyllic Baspa Valley, is overshadowed by the nearly 6,000-meter-high Kinner-Kailash Peak. High above the main town of Sangla lies the old village of Kamru, which is still surrounded by ramparts, and offers a fantastic view of the surrounding mountains. Overnight at Kinner Camp.
From Sangla we reach the last inhabited place of the valley to Chitkul at 3,435 m and surrounded by green rocks and high mountains. Small wooden houses, beautiful temples and gompas as well as the friendly people of the Sangla Valley almost convey the idea of a last Shangri-La. Day hike in the Chitkul valley.
Where the Spiti River flows into the Sutley, the landscape changes increasingly. Arid highlands framed by snow-capped peaks dominate the picture – interrupted by green oases. In Nako we feel for the first time that Tibet is not far away – flat-roofed stone houses, prayer walls and mani stones carved with prayers will be our constant companions from now on. Overnight at Knaygoh Kinner Camp.
Surrounded by a magnificent panorama of mountain giants and canyons, which change their colors in the light of the sun, we reach Tabo at 3,050 m altitude, the most culturally significant place in Spiti. In 1996, the monastery celebrated its 1,000th anniversary, which is famous for its unique murals. North of Tabo rises the Tabo Labtse, a 4,100 m high ridge. Overnight local house.
We continue today to Kaza, the district capital of Spiti, where we move to our hotel in nearby Rangrik. On the way we visit the gompa of Dankar, the Demul and Tanguid Monastery. Overnight Hotel Dezore.
Only 11 km away is Key Gompa, which sits enthroned on a 4,120 m high, monolithic mountain above the Spiti Valley and the homonymous village. In the countless cell dwellings and five temples more than 200 monks are still there today. In the monastery village of Kibber (4,205 m) we gain an impression of the overwhelmingly vast plateaus of West Tibet. Overnight at Hotel Dezore.
Through a magnificent erosion landscape and Tibetan villages we reach the 4,558 m high Kunzum La Pass. The panorama of nearly a dozen snowy 6,000m presents itself here magnificently. A detour takes us to the Chander Valley or Chandra Valley (4,250m) with its wonderful “Moon Lake”. A footpath leads from Kunzum La in 7 km to the lake however, we take the 16 km long track with the vehicle. Here, the view sweeps over mountains towering up to 6,500 m and the mighty Samudra Tapoo glacier. Overnight Hotel Dribu Retreat.
Continue by jeep to Manali. Over the 3,998 m high Rothang Pass we reach the tourist center of Himachal Pradesh at the entrance of the Kullu Valley at 2,050 m altitude. The vegetation is quite different here than in the last days. While Kinnaur and Spiti lie in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, in the Kullu Valley the influence of the monsoon makes itself felt again and produces lush vegetation. Hotel The Green Mountain Lodge.
For a whole day we have time for sightseeing and exploration in Manali, so we visit the Hadimba Temple – with Manali’s oldest shrine and after the loneliness of the last days let us drift through the colorful streets of the city.
Through the Kullu Valley we drive to Chandigarh. By train, we comfortably travel the last 200 km to Delhi, where we arrive late in the evening and are taken from the train station to our hotel. Overnight at hotel Claridges New Delhi.
The colorful and bustling streets of Delhi, sounds and exotic smells astonish us. Small market stalls with artfully piled mountains of fragrant fruit invite you to try. Near the Muslim, medieval-looking center of Nizzamudin we visit the mausoleum of Humayun. Continue to one of Delhi’s most famous landmarks, the red sandstone tower in the middle of the Qutub-Minar complex. At 71 m, it towers over the entire complex – filigree ornaments and Koran verses carved into the stone adorn its facade. Overnight hotel Claridges New Delhi.
Depending on the flight time we will be taken to the airport and fly back to home. End our services.