Spiti Valley is in the most northern part of Himachal Pradesh, India, situated right on the Tibetan border. Historically Spiti was part of the Guge Kingdom. Tabo monastery, which is located on the south-eastern end of the Spiti Valley, was founded in the year 996 A.D. and is the oldest continuously operating Buddhist enclave in India and the Himalayas. There are many gompas nearly as old and of similar interest in the valley.
The valley floor is ten to thirteen thousand feet above sea level and is a high altitude desert. Summer days are hot and the nights are cold. Winter temperatures can get down as low as twenty degrees below zero at night. Tibetan Buddhism is the religion and there are monasteries of all the different Buddhist sects. The language is Boti, which is a Tibetan dialect.
There are many villages all through Spiti Valley, but not many have hotel accommodations, direct transport or information. As part of the Homestays, the guides (Phuntsok and Thinley) will take the tourists/guests in small groups to stay in people's homes, introduce them to the true culture of the Spitian people, and take them on adventures to unknown places.
Interesting things to do in Spiti Valley:
Homestays (Costs $U.S.25 per person per day)
Tourists will be staying in village homes with the local families, or in monastery guest houses. They will live with the people and learn how to make home-made noodles, thukpa, tentuk, momos, cheese and butter tea. The guide will be there with them at all times to translate and help attend to all their needs.
The guests can bring a song from their native country to swap for a Spiti song, stories and photos from home to share, along with their sleeping bags, towels, a good pair of walking boots, and water bottle. They can truly experience the real culture of the joyful and gentle people of Spiti Valley.
Yak Trekking (Costs $U.S.30 per person per day)
For thousands of years, yaks have been used for farming, building and transport. This unique opportunity enables the tourists to walk with yaks through the Pin Valley to Kafnu on the old Spiti to Kinnaur foot road, as the locals have done for thousands of years camping in the wild and hopefully sighting many of the endangered animals and rare birds.
Phuntsok will meet them at Tabo Gompa in the morning and together they will take vehicles to the end of the road in Pin Valley. The guests will meet up with the yaks, cooks, and helpers. All of their gear will be carried on the yaks and they also may have to ride the yaks to cross the rivers.
Their meals will be provided and in the company of the locals they will enjoy the evenings under the great Himalayan skies. One night will be spent near Mud Nunnery, a sacred and awesome place where Tibetan Buddhist nuns carry out their practices in seclusion and peace. The group will stop on the way near tiny remote villages and finally arrive at Kafnu after crossing the Bawa Pass 4,900 meters.
The guests will need to bring their own tents, sleeping bags and mats, daypacks, water bottles, wet weather gear, snow gear, sunhat, and sunscreen. Good walking boots are a must. The yaks will carry all of their gear except for the things they need during the day. The guests will be required to set up their own tent at the end of the day while dinner is being prepared.
Snow Leopard and Wildlife Expedition during Winter (Cost $U.S.50 per person per day)
Phuntsok will meet the tourists in Tabo or Kaza, and together they will go to villages where snow leopards have been sighted. This would include Pin Valley, Kibber, Nako, Gete, or many other small villages. They will be staying in peoples' homes and be out and about in the early mornings in below zero temperatures. They should be well-prepared for the weather and bring a good sleeping bag.
All their meals and accommodation will be in peoples' homes, and along with their daily wildlife watch and snow leopard chase, they will be mingling with the local people during the coldest part of the year. This is a great opportunity to hear snow leopard stories, tales, and myths of today and times gone by. Phuntsok will translate for the guests and if they are interested in cooking, they can learn some great skills in the art of home made thupka, tentuk, momos, and tsampa making. Carpet weaving and other crafts are done each winter around the fire with endless cups of sweet and salty tea spiced with song and laughter.