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Places to visit near Kaza, Spiti Valley - Surreal Spiti

Spiti Valley is unlike any other valleys in Himachal Pradesh, India. It doesn’t have any vegetation rich mountains, dense jungles, farms and orchards and English hamlets like other valleys. Instead, Spiti Valley has Grand Canyon like brown and barren mountains with strange shapes and colours. However, the valley has much more to offer than just the mountains, rocks and arid vastness. The charm of Spiti Valley lies in its quaint villages. These villages that seem like a tiny dot from afar, are full of life, culture, tradition and hospitality. Settled in the lap of trans-Himalayan range, Spiti Valley is home to some of the remotest, highest and most beautiful villages like Key, Kibber, Hikkim, Komik and Langza. On your trip to Spiti, do not miss out on Spiti's most famous sight of Key monastery, world's highest post office at Hikkim, world's highest and 2nd highest motorable villages at Komik & Kibber, Asia's highest bridge at Chicham and giant Buddha statue at Langza. In this blog, we will list down 5 villages of Spiti Valley that are worth visiting. Stay tuned.

Key monastery, Spiti Valley - Himachal Pradesh, India
Key monastery, Spiti Valley - Himachal Pradesh, India
 

Read our previous blogs on Spiti Valley and Kinnaur Valley by clicking on the below-mentioned links/ images:

7. Places to visit around Kaza (Key, Kibber, Chicham, Hikkim, Komik, Langza) (This blog)

 

Key monastery in Key village:

Key Village (also known as Ki or Kee village) is situated between Kaza and Kibber on the left bank of the Spiti river. It is located just 12 kilometres away from the bustling town of Kaza. The small village houses an odd 70 families who mainly depend on agriculture for survival. Key village houses the famous Key monastery. The monastery is a 3-kilometre uphill climb from the village. You can either hire a taxi/ rent a bike from Kaza or tag along with someone going towards Key to visit the monastery.

Road from Kaza to Key monastery (the monastery can be seen on the hill)
Road from Kaza to Key monastery (the monastery can be seen on the hill)

Key monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery and is one of the oldest monasteries in Spiti Valley. It is located at an altitude of 13670 feet above sea level. Key monastery was built by Dromton, the founder of Gelugpa sect, in the 11th century. The monastery was constructed on a conical shaped hill, possibly on an extinct volcano, as per the Himachal Pradesh Gazette. It was devastated several times in petty wars between Kullu and Ladakh and particularly during Dogra war in 1841. It was also attacked by Sikh army and its old books and statues were destroyed. An earthquake in 1975 caused further damage, after which Archaeological Survey of India took steps to repair the monastery. Hence the outfit of Key monastery seems rather modern today.

The iconic Key monastery surrounded by barren hills, Spiti Valley
The iconic Key monastery surrounded by barren hills, Spiti Valley

Key monastery has three floors, one of which is underground and used as a storage area to store supplies for winter, and dresses, musical instruments, masks and other necessities for occasions of religious ceremony. The ground floor has invariably fashioned rooms, built in similar architecture, for the monks. The large heap of rooms have low doors and narrow corridors between them. Through dark passages and torturous staircases, one can reach the topmost floor which has a beautiful assembly hall richly painted with murals. Currently, the Key monastery is home to 300 lamas who reside within the sacred walls throughout the year. They also provide guest house services to the tourists for a meagre amount.

Key Monastery, Spiti Valley - Himachal Pradesh, India
Key Monastery, Spiti Valley - Himachal Pradesh, India

During our visit, red-robed child monks were playing around in the playground outside the Key monastery. With their guidance, we hiked up a hill towards the backside of the monastery. On a defined trail, we went upwards for 10-15 minutes and as we turned, we got a stunning bird’s eye view of the Key monastery with the beautiful Spiti river and mountains in the backdrop. From above, the Key monastery appeared like a hill fort perched on a rugged ridge. The view gave us the essence of the existence of the century-old heritage beautifully painted in white and red. This view of Key monastery is the best view we got in Spiti Valley.

Side view of the Key monastery, Spiti Valley
Side view of the Key monastery, Spiti Valley

Note:

  • Photography is allowed only in some sections inside the Key monastery. If you are doubtful, ask before clicking.

  • Monks will invite you for butter tea while exploring the Key monastery. They will tell you all about the history and working of the monastery. Do give them some donation while you leave.

  • In the meditation hall of Key monastery, you will find many monks chanting prayers or in deep meditation. Please keep silence and respect the aura.

  • Do not miss visiting the view point we just described above

We trekked on a hill behind the Key monastery to get this click
We trekked on a hill behind the Key monastery to get this click

Kibber Village:

Kibber is a large village and is the last Spiti outpost before Ladakh. It is located at an altitude of 14010 feet above sea level and is just 10 kilometres away from Key village. Originally known as Kyber, the Kibber village was once hailed as the highest motorable village in the world till road to Komik village was built. Kibber village houses some 90 families, has a beautiful monastery and a wildlife sanctuary. It is also a base camp for treks to adjoining high altitude peaks. Popular treks like Parang La and Kanamo peak trek starts from Kibber. The Kibber wildlife sanctuary is 1400 square kilometres vast and protects animals like snow leopard, red fox, Himalayan wolf, ibex and Tibetan wild ass. In winters, Kibber village becomes a base for travellers interested in spotting the rare snow leopard. Kibber monastery was established by Serkong Rinpoche, the teacher of Dalai Lama. The monastery is located in such a serene and peaceful location that even Dalai Lama has expressed a wish to retire in Kibber someday.

Kibber village, Spiti Valley - Himachal Pradesh, India
Kibber village, Spiti Valley - Himachal Pradesh, India

Kibber is considered as one of the highest well inhabited village of Spiti Valley with inhabitants staying all the year-round. Picturesque white houses with bright red rooftops add to the charm of the village. With an increase in tourism, many households have set up basic homestays with the help of the local community. Kibber village is a paradise for nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts as well as for photographers owing to its panoramic beautiful landscapes and immeasurable beauty.

Chicham bridge - Asia's highest suspension bridge in Spiti Valley, India
Chicham bridge - Asia's highest suspension bridge in Spiti Valley, India

Hardly 6 kilometres from Kibber village lies Chicham village, which you must not skip visiting due to two reasons. One, because the drive from Kibber to Chicham is extremely breath-taking with wonderful views of Mount Kanamo. And secondly, because you will get to see and walk on Asia’s highest suspension bridge situated at an altitude of 13600 feet from sea level. Chicham bridge is an engineering marvel as it is built over a 100-metre-deep gorge. Before Chicham bridge was built, that is till 2017, locals had access to Chicham village only via a pulley and ropeway system called as the Kibber-Chicham ropeway.

Chicham bridge - Asia's highest suspension bridge in Spiti Valley, India
Chicham bridge - Asia's highest suspension bridge in Spiti Valley, India

Hikkim Village:

Hikkim village, located at an altitude of 14570 feet, houses the highest post office in the world. Situated 16 kilometres away from Kaza town, Hikkim is nestled between the villages of Komik and