Drive along the raging Sutlej river, with apricot and plum trees lining your way
Lose yourself (or perhaps find yourself) in the worlds oldest monastery, Tabo
Drop in to ancient nunneries in Spiti
Outside Magazine USA, has judged MHE's Spiti Safari to be one of "The 30 Most Incredible Trips to Take in 2015!" We offer you two options for this trip: Bring your own car and join the convoy, or take the chauffeur driven option where we provide the car and an expert driver, so you can sit back, relax and enjoy the view.
All our drivers have done this trip many times and are familiar with the roads and conditions. Our cars are well maintained and inspected before every trip.
Spiti is a land like no other and Kipling's description says it all: "At last they entered a world within a world. A valley of leagues where the high hills were fashioned off the mere rubble and refuse from the knees of the mountains. Surely the Gods live here.”
The bastion of ancient Buddhism and even today, a research and cultural centre for Buddhists, MHE's Spiti Jeep Safari takes you into a timeless land of ultimate fascination! The Spiti Valley is home to some of the most spectacular Buddhist monasteries, especially the Ki Monastery and the Tabo Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries in the world and a favourite of the Dalai Lama. Even today, the Pin Valley of Spiti is home to the few surviving Buchen Lamas of the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism.
The revitalized nunneries of Spiti make for a fascinating visit, have a chuckle with the nuns as they proudly show you their new solar bathhouse - they even use it as a meeting room for tea and talk in the winter!! They are doing amazing work in environmentally sustainable living and education.
If you're searching for best offbeat destinations in India or real epic adventure, then this is the tour for you!
When you trek with MHE, you can be assured that we are backed by many years in the business of providing safe and sustainable adventure trips. The staff you deal with in the office, all the way through to the guides and porters on trek, have years of experience in safe and enjoyable adventure behind them. We can advise you on the right gear, the right training, and no question is too crazy for us to answer.
Our trips are designed for your maximum enjoyment and comfort, taking into consideration the environment and conditions, wherever you are.
We use the best available accommodation, whether built structures or tents, with attached bathroom where available. Please remember though that you are in a remote and difficult location, and your expectations should be reduced accordingly.
We believe in sustainable, ethical and responsible tourism. Our guides are all certified and trained, the porters receive above standard wages, and we do not allow them to carry more than 30kg (the international standard set by IPPG as well as the government). Our crew are all insured, and provided with suitable clothing and equipment.
We support the local economy wherever possible, and do NOT encourage giving any gifts of sweets, pens etc to the charming local children you meet along the trail. If you are really interested to donate something, please discuss with us first.
Our "all inclusive" trip means that you aren't constantly rummaging for money, and you know up front what is included.
Trip starts from: Chandigarh, Punjab No. of days of the trip: 10 No. of driving days: 10 Maximum altitude: 4,590 at Kunzum La Trekking Grade: Moderately Challenging
All-Inclusive Cost: Please call us for details
We are adventure lovers here at MHE and want to make adventure travel accessible to any one who yearns it. That is why we've introduced the Pay Monthly scheme. That's right, you can now pay in manageable monthly instalments! Simply call us for more details.
DAY 1: ARRIVE CHANDIGARH AND DRIVE TO MASHOBRA
You need to reach Chandigarh - the start-off point for this fantastic trip! If you're coming from Delhi, we recommend you board the train to Chandigarh at 0740 hrs. Our team will be there to pick you up at Chandigarh railway station at 11:05 hrs and we will drive straight on to Mashobra - a pretty little town outside of Simla with spectacular views. If you are bringing your own car you must arrive at Chandigarh station by 11.00 and we will all head off together. It's a 4-5 hrs drive. Your Spiti Jeep Safari has just begun!
DAY 2: DRIVE TO THANEDAR
Thanedar, our next day's destination, is a mere 80 km journey through amazing mountains and beautiful orchards to 2300m. Here we camp overnight in Swiss tents and it really begins to feel like we're 'getting away from it all'.
DAY 3: DRIVE TO SANGLA VALLEY
From Thanedar we drive 190km through the Sutlej Gorge which opens up into the magical Sangla valley at an altitude of 2,815 metres. This sublime hidden valley was closed to outsiders until 1989 due to its strategic position near the Indo-Tibetan border. The Baspa River flows through the valley, which is rich in pine nut, apple and cherry orchards, and glacial streams with Himalayan trout. Sangla valley is a delight for nature lovers and a real Shangri La.
We spend 2 nights here in camp to make the most of this beautiful Spiti valley.
DAY 4: STAY IN SANGLA VALLEY
The following morning, after enjoying the sunrise if you wake up early enough, take a drive up the valley to the lost village of Chitkul at an altitude of 3460m, indescribably beautiful, with its ancient wooden homes and an ornate gate that leads to an old walking route to Tibet. Chitkul is the last inhabited village before the Tibet border. Explore the Kamru Fort which is now the temple of the Goddess Kamakshi - the universal Mother Goddess whose name literally means "one whose eyes are full of desire", who eventually married Lord Shiva (often referred to as "The Destroyer" or "The Transformer"). Visit the Beri Nag snake temple and take in the stunning views of the mighty Himalaya. There is also an old Kagyupa monastery which houses a highly valued image of Shakyamuni Buddha.
DAY 5: DRIVE FROM SANGLA TO TABO
After enjoying the picture perfect Sangla Valley for 2 nights, we drive to Tabo - the 193 KM journey will take around seven hours and you will drive past a board put up by the Border Roads Organization that says: "you are travelling on the world's most treacherous road!" crossing over an altitude of 3800m. You now enter the Spiti valley - a geological and archaeological living museum. En route visit the Gyu Monastery and see the Gyu Mummy, a monk who has been perfectly preserved, and was hidden from the world for around 500 years, until an earthquake in 1975 cracked open the tomb. Climb to the ancient village of Tabo, built in AD 996 on the bank of the Spiti river at an altitude of 3,280 meters. The town surrounds a Buddhist monastery which, according to legend, is said to be over a 1000 years old. For His Holiness the Dalai Lama, this Tabo Monastery is one of the holiest and he has often expressed his desire to retire here. This evening's accommodation is in a local hotel.
DAY 6: DRIVE FROM TABO TO KAZA
After breakfast, drive from Tabo to Kaza, around 75 KM stretch that should take about three hours. Stop enroute to visit Dhankar, the traditional capital of Spiti. The hilltop fort, which served as a jailhouse in the past, still dominates the landscape. Visit the 500 year old Dhankar monastery at an altitude of 3890m famous for its statue of the Dhyani Buddha, four statues of the Buddha facing all directions, sitting back-to-back. Also stop at Demul to visit the monastery. We take the lesser used road via the interesting villages of Komik, Hikkim and Langza, which are some of the highest villages in India which are inhabited year round. Take time to visit the Komik Monastery, the world's highest post office at Hikkim, and see the natural fossil park at Langza. Continue on to Kaza - the commercial centre of Spiti, situated at 3,450 meters at the foot of steep ridges on the left bank of the Spiti river.
Overnight at hotel.
DAY 7: STAY IN KAZA
The next day is a leisurely day in Kaza, the primary "city" in Spiti and you can take your time to visit the amazing surrounding monasteries - all beautifully preserved because of the dry air and altitude. The lack of too many tourists helps as well. Some of the more famous Gompa (monastery) here are:
Ki Monastery (3930m) 13.5 km from Kaza: It is the biggest monastery of Spiti Valley and a religious training Centre for Lamas. With its collection of ancient murals and books, including Buddha images, this Gompa is a must-visit. The walls of the monastery are covered with paintings and murals, an example of the 14th century monastic architecture, which developed as a result of Chinese influence.
Tangyud Monastery: The monastery has a look of a fortified castle being surrounded by high walls. It is one of two Sakya monasteries left in the Lahaul and Spiti Valley and likely to have been built in the early 14th century. The village of Tangyud lies at the foot of this monastery that is located at an elevation of 4,470 meters. The Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary is easily accessible from here.
Kibber Valley: Kibber is a scenic village that forms an important trekking route to Tso Moriri, Ladakh. Come election time, Kibber gets national prominence - the locals claim it is the highest polling station in the world!
Comic Monastery 22.4 km from Kaza: At an altitude of 4,500 meters you travel along high mountains roads through the village of Langza at 4200m
Sherab Choeling Nunnery 12.km from Kaza
Based in the Village of Moorang, the Sherab Choeling Nunnery currently houses 72 Nuns. Built in 1995 by 20 nuns and their teacher to address the problem of the inadequate education of women in the region, this is a delightful place to spend some time and sip a cup of tea.
Spend overnight at a Kaza hotel.
DAY 8: DRIVE FROM KAZA TO MANALI VIA KUNZUM LA
Come Day 8, the 180 KM stretch, should take you around nine hours. You're driving to Manali via Losar through some of the most dramatic mountain terrain. If you stop for a wander you might find fossils, which date back to 400 million years when the land was the Tethys seabed. Cross the Kunzum La Pass (4590 meters) and the Rohtang pass (3978 meters) on the way to Manali. Stop at the top of the Kunzum La to visit the Durga temple, give thanks for your journey, and take in the breathtaking (literally!) view at 4,590 metres. There are magnificent views of the Bara-Sigri glacier, the second longest in the world.
Note: If you're doing this trip in May/June, Kunzum La is still closed, so instead of heading to Manali, you come back to Kalpa, then on to Chandigarh and back to Delhi.
DAY 9: FULL DAY IN MANALI
A little hill town that burgeoned into a thriving tourist centre that still holds many charms. Home to some of the finest vegetarian pizzas this side of the universe (that's what we believe!) as well as some Tibetan thupka - take your pick! Morning half-day tour visiting Naggar Castle, Roerich Art Gallery (closed on Mondays) and few old temples in Naggar village. Afternoon half-day city tour visiting Hadimba Devi Temple, Manu Temple, Tibetan Monastery and Vashisht Village. Evening free to explore Manali market.
DAY 10: DRIVE MANALI TO CHANDIGARH AND ON TO DELHI
Day 10 is our final day and breakfast is at the hotel. For those who've taken the chauffeur-driven option, you will take an early morning drive to Chandigarh which is 292 KM - which should take you maximum seven hours by road, to board the train for Delhi at 18:23 Hrs. Our team will meet you at the New Delhi railway station when the train trudges in at 21:55 Hrs.
For those driving down their own vehicles, you can choose to leave Manali at your own convenience.
Trip ends here.
Where to next?
Our "all inclusive" trip means that you are not constantly rummaging for money, and you know up front what is included.
Nine nights accommodation in hotels/camps on twin sharing basis.
Self-drive/chauffeur-driven vehicles (Scorpio/Innova or similar)
Walkie-talkies in each car.
Support jeep with trip leader and mechanic.
All meals - 09 Breakfasts, 8 Lunches, and 8 Dinners.
Basic medical kit including oxygen canister.
All government taxes included.
For the chauffeur-driven option: All of the above plus:
Train tickets from Delhi to Chandigarh - for those choosing the chauffeur-driven option.
Pick up and drop off from airport/railway station, Delhi to Delhi.
Fully equipped vehicles with experienced drivers - includes fuel costs as well.
COST DOES NOT INCLUDE:
International/Domestic air fare or train fare.
Unforeseen expenses that demand a change in itinerary like natural forces, changes in weather, road blockages, flight/train cancellations and illness.
Medical, Travel, or Evacuation insurance.
Expenses of a personal nature - tips, laundry, phone calls, beverages.
Fuel costs of the vehicle you drive - hired or own (comes to approximately ₹ 12,000 Delhi to Delhi)
• When we have groups of 4+ people we supply a comprehensive first aid kit carried by your guide. For individual trekkers and small groups (less than 4 people) we supply a basic first aid kit carried by your guide
• Your local trek guide and leader of the trekking crew (which depends on group size): Sherpas and Porters with equipment and clothing (snow gear, warm gear, sleeping gear) and with all accommodation, meals and insurance provided for your crew.
The first things you need: • Sleeping bag and liner – a 3 or 4 season bag is recommended, depending on your trek • Down jacket – need for this depends on the season and where you are going • Kit / duffel bag – required to pack your gear in (suitcases are not suitable) Please note: Unless you advise us otherwise we will assume you are bringing these items with you. If you need help to buy or rent them, please just let us know, we’re more than happy to help (down jackets and sleeping bags can be rented).
Other items that we recommend you take on trek: • Loose comfortable T-Shirts NOT COTTON or long sleeved shirts for sun protection • Long trousers (for cultural reasons, we request you not to wear tight pants or shorts. If you really want to wear shorts, please make them loose fitting and long) • A warm jacket / fleece pullover • A thermal layer (shirt and pants) • A water and wind proof layer (jacket and pants) • Woollen or thermal gloves • Sun hat and sun glasses • Woollen or fleece hat • Scarf / stretchy ‘buff’ • Socks – depending on the season bring either warm, woollen socks or cool, breathable cotton socks • Comfortable and worn in trekking boots • Sandals or flip flops for camp • A comfortable day pack with adjustable waist and shoulder straps • Personal toiletries - shampoo, soap, shavers, moisturizer, travel towel, etc • Ziplock bags are handy for convenient leak-proof storage • Sun block and lip balm • Dust mask/ scarf / stretchy ‘buff’ for dusty trails • Personal first aid kit + any personal medications you need to take + water treatment tablets/drops • Camera, batteries and charger, music, book • Airtight and waterproof ‘dry bags’ are great for 1) keeping your clothes dry and 2) storing your dirty laundry separate from clean clothes! • Sleeping bag liner – either silk, cotton or fleece • WATER BOTTLES - please be able to carry 2 litres of water and have bottles that can handle boiling/hot water • HEAD TORCH and spare batteries • Your sense of humour and adventure!
Note: These days most of these items can be purchased in Kathmandu. There are now several leading brand stores selling their own equipment and there are many stores selling cheap imitations and some well established local stores selling under their own labels. Please ask us if you’d like some advice about where to go to get any gear. If you need to do any shopping for gear, please let us know with enough time to do this before leaving for trek!
What to take with you in your day pack: Please carry the following in your day pack, as a minimum: • 2 litres of water (please make sure your water bottles will take boiling/hot water) • sunscreen, sun glasses, sun hat, lip balm, dust mask / scarf / ‘buff’ to help on dusty trails • warm fleece or thermal layer and gloves • water proof layer • head torch • hand cleaner • your camera • any money you want for snacks/drinks along the trail • CRITICAL – take any personal medications you require during the day – you will not see your kit bag until evening.
The rest you can put into your kit bag which will be carried by the porters, whom you won’t see until camp in the evening. It’s a great idea to use dry bags (ie airtight/waterproof) in your kit bag to store your dry clothes in to keep them DRY in case it rains and one to put your dirty laundry in (to keep from making everything else in your bag smell bad!). These dry bags are readily available.
If you have any special dietary requirements, please advise us when booking your trek so that we can cater for you. Note: sometimes not all dietary requirements are able to be met, but please inform us and we will certainly do our best!
Some tips for staying healthy: • Do NOT drink or brush your teeth with tap water or untreated water! • Drink only properly boiled water or use water purification tablets, such as iodine. Bottled water is available, but as the plastic cannot be recycled in Nepal we request you to consider the waste impact of your bottles – we recommend you drink boiled water or use iodine. • Your hands are perhaps your biggest enemy in terms of your health as they get very dirty during the day. Wash your hands before every meal or snack. People often think they get sick from the food, but it’s far more likely they forgot to wash their hands! • During the trek DO NOT try to test your fitness and walk too high, too quickly! Listen to your guide and take their advice as they are trained to look after your safety. Altitude sickness is a killer and you MUST take it seriously.
First aid kit: When we have groups of 4+ people we supply a comprehensive first aid kit carried by your guide. For individual trekkers and small groups (less than 4 people) we supply a smaller first aid kit carried by your guide It is recommended that you bring a small personal medical kit including your preferred painkillers, throat lozenges, plasters, strapping tape for blisters, etc. If you are taking regular medication you MUST bring those medicines with you PLUS an extra supply in case one pack is lost. If you have any allergies and/or take any medications, you MUST advise us when booking your trek!
The trails: Trekking trails vary from wide, road-like avenues to narrow, slippery paths built out over enormous drops. In many places, a fall from the trail would be fatal. One must pay attention at all times to where you are placing your feet. Be especially careful not to move while looking through the view finder of your camera!
Be prepared for the weather: Each altitude has its own weather, from tropical heat to arctic cold. In the main trekking seasons in the spring and autumn, the weather is generally stable and even the high passes may be free of snow and relatively easy to traverse at times. Some trekkers who have encountered an easy day at altitude may spread the word that boots and warm clothing are not required. This is a mistake. Sudden storms occur at any time, dumping snow on the passes without warning. At that point, any one poorly equipped will not be able to proceed and may even be stranded for a number of days risking their life and the lives of others. You are heading into the worlds highest mountain range. Be prepared for changes in temperature and weather!! Altitude and preventing Altitude Sickness: • Being in a hurry in the mountains can be deadly. Acclimatization is the word used to describe the adjustments your body makes as it ascends to higher altitudes. • Ascending slowly, with appropriate rest days and drinking plenty of water is one of the best ways not to get Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Data indicates that drinking 3-4 litres of fluids (water, soup etc) per day to avoid dehydration helps in the acclimatization process. • You should not plan to go to high altitude if you have heart disease, difficulty breathing at sea level or are pregnant. You should consult your doctor about any known medical conditions if you are considering trekking in high altitude (over 2500m). • Avoid sleeping pills, alcohol and smoking while at altitude as they tend to decrease breathing and lead to AMS. • The first aid kit carried by your guide includes Diamox and other altitude medications and he/she is trained in the identification of AMS symptoms and their treatment. You MUST take their advice. If anything happens to your guide the first aid kit has a Wilderness Medicine handbook with comprehensive information about altitude sickness and other ailments. When relevant, your pre-trek briefing will include information about what to expect and what to do to avoid AMS before embarking on your trek.
Tipping and cash requirements: While all main meals are provided on trek, do not forget to bring some rupees for drinks or snacks that you might purchase on the way. You will be surprised by what is available on the popular trekking routes now! The amount to carry on the trekking routes depends on the area you are going to trek in, so please ask your guide for advice. Tipping is now common but there are no strict rules about how much the tip should be. You should only tip if you are satisfied with the service.
Photographing people: During your trek you will have many opportunities to photograph local people and the amazing scenery and you will use tons of film/memory space! When you want to take a photo of a person, please ask them first and respect their right to refuse – you will be surprised how easy it is to convey the request to take someone’s photo even when you don’t share a common language! If you have a digital camera it is considerate (and fun!) to show them their photo and if it’s possible to arrange to have copies printed and sent to them this is an amazing gift! However do not promise to do so if you are not sure you can deliver on the promise, so please talk to your guide about this! Photos can be a brilliant way to establish a connection with local people, but please respect their right to privacy.
Considering the Environment: While trekking you have to be careful not to destroy the very environment you are enjoying so much. It is not only for your enjoyment, people and wildlife rely on this environment for their drinking water and food supply and many places are of enormous religious significance to local people.
There are many ways you can help to conserve the environment of the area in which you trek. Here are some simple tips: • pick up any litter along the trail; • burn all your toilet paper and bury your faeces when not in camp, make sure you go at least 50m away from any water source; • do not make campfire, nor consume food cooked on wood fires; • drink boiled/treated water instead of mineral water as the plastic bottles are a problem; • stick to the trails to prevent erosion and damage to fragile alpine flora • ensure all rubbish is packed out (or burnt/buried if appropriate).
Insurance: All tour participants should obtain their own personal insurance which covers medical and emergency evacuation at a minimum. You will of course also want cover for loss or damage to personal effects, flight or trip cancellation etc.
Final tips! To ensure that you have the best time possible, please respect local traditions, customs, values and the environment. You will have a great time if you are open to the warm hearted hospitality and if you respect their efforts to protect their local culture and maintain local pride. • Respect privacy when taking photographs • Respect holy places and dress appropriately • Refrain from giving money or food to children. There are many good organisations working to help street children, we recommend you support them instead of encouraging the kids to stay on the street. • Protect the natural environment, see above • Finally, respect local ways. You may not agree with everything you see and you may want to intervene or say something. Please remember, you probably do not fully understand what you are seeing and in any case your role here on your holiday is not to change the country. If you feel strongly about it then that’s great...there are many avenues for volunteering or long term work here to support positive, sustainable change!
Even Indians require Inner line permits for this trip, so you do need to book well in advance.
Feel free to bring the kids along, they will love the driving holiday!
If you don't want to spend the last day in Manali, but prefer to head back, that option is available to you.
MHE always moves with oxygen cylinders at high altitudes - in case someone has an issue with acclimatization. Safety is always our priority.
The chauffeur-driven cars have experienced drivers who have done this circuit many times before, so don't worry - just sit back and enjoy the drive.