Separated from fertile Lahaul by the soaring 4551m Kunzum La, the trans-Himalayan region of Spiti is another chunk of Tibet marooned in India. The scattered villages in this serrated moonscape arrive like mirages, clusters of whitewashed mud-brick homes huddled amid green barley fields below monasteries perched on crags a thousand feet above. The turquoise-grey ribbon of the Spiti River is your near-constant companion, running along a fairly broad valley before turning south at Sumdo into the precipitous gorges of the Hangrang Valley.
Spiti attracts many travellers, including streams of Indian motorcyclists, as a kind of 'mini-Ladakh without tourist crowds', which is fair enough, since its pristine nature (high-altitude desert) and culture (Tibetan Buddhist) are still intact. The approaches to Spiti remain among the most rugged and scenically spectacular roads in India, and the Spiti–Kinnaur loop is one of Asia's great road trips.