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Pin Valley National Park/India

Introducing Pin Valley National Park

Running south from the Spiti Valley, the wind-scoured Pin Valley National Park (1875 sq km) is famous as the ‘land of ibex and snow leopards’, though in reality, sightings of either species are rare. From July to October, a spectacular but logistically complicated six- to eight-day trek runs from here over the 5319m Pin-Parvati Pass to the Parvati Valley near Kullu. Easier to arrange is the four-day trek over the 4850m Bhaba Pass to Kaphnu in Kinnaur.

The road to the Pin Valley branches off the Kaza–Tabo Hwy about 10km before Sichling, climbing through winter meadows to the cluster of whitewashed farmhouses at Gulling, which has a couple of simple guesthouses. About 2km above Gulling at Kungri, the 600-year-old Ugyen Sangnak Choling Gompa has a huge new monastery building and two much more interesting medieval side chapels, featuring blackened murals, festival masks and carved wooden snowlions. The monastery guesthouse has four plain but clean rooms.

Southwest of Gulling, the charming traditional village of Sagnam marks the turn-off to the village of Mudh (3770m), trailhead for the trek over the Pin-Parvati Pass and an increasingly popular hang-out for the Israeli backpacker crowd. The excellent Tara Guesthouse is a fine place to soak up the views, and the owner Sonam can arrange porters and full treks.

Buses run daily from Kaza to Mudh (₹70, two hours) at 3pm, returning to Kaza the next day at 8am. Taxis in Kaza charge ₹1500 to Mudh.