Introducing Lahaul & Spiti
The largest district in Himachal Pradesh, Lahaul and Spiti is also one of the most sparsely populated regions on earth. This rugged network of interlocking river valleys lies in the rain shadow of the Himalaya – 12, 000 sq km of snow-topped mountains and high-altitude desert, punctuated by tiny patches of greenery and villages of whitewashed mud-brick houses clinging to the sides of rivers and meltwater streams.
As in Zanskar and Ladakh, Buddhism is the dominant religion, though there are small pockets of Hinduism in Lahaul, where many temples are sacred to Buddhist and Hindu deities. According to legend, some monasteries in Lahaul were founded personally by Padmasambhava, the Indian monk who converted Tibet to Buddhism in the 8th century AD.
Manali is the main gateway to Lahaul and Spiti. A seasonal highway runs north over the Rohtang La (3978m) to Keylong, the capital of Lahaul, continuing to Ladakh over the mighty Baralacha La (4950m) and Tanglang La (5328m). Side roads branch west to the little-visited Pattan Valley and east to Spiti over the 4551m Kunzum La. Growing numbers of travellers are visiting Lahaul and Spiti as part of the Great Himalayan Circuit from Kashmir to Kinnaur.
Snow closes all the mountain passes in winter. The Rohtang La, Baralacha La and Tanglang La are normally open from June to late October, while the Kunzum La to Spiti is accessible from July to October. Exact dates depend on snow conditions at the passes. At other times, the only way into the area is the rugged Hindustan–Tibet Hwy from Rekong Peo in Kinnaur. Whichever way you come, the rapid climbs in altitude bring a risk of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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