Indian summers are on its peak and while we all are finding ways to beat the heat, one of the solution is to head to the hills. This month, we ditch the usual and take you to a lesser-known but beautiful himalayan destination- Spiti, popular among the adventurists and explorers. Read through, to know about its culture, festivals, food, architecture and more. The place is sure to mesmerize you. Also read about the himalayan festival of Hemis and learn to make the tibetan favourite Momos. Lots more in store, read on !
Wish you a happy & travel-filled summer!
Eyed By Indian Zing
Banjara Retreat, Spiti
Banjara Camps is a pioneer in luxury camping. Amongst other things, Banjara was the first to set up camps in Kinnaur as well as in Spiti after the area opened to tourists in 1993. For six months every year, the Himalayan valleys of Kinnaur and Spiti emerge from a thick cloak of snow to reveal a different, secret world to man. At a height of 2,700 mts the Banjara Camp & Retreat is surrounded by towering mountains on all sides and is set on the banks of the Baspa river that surges through the valley.
There are 12 deluxe rustic stone-made rooms & 15 fully-furnished Swiss tents with attached bath. The retreat offers many activities like walks to discover the amazing fauna and flora of the valley, treks to view snow covered Himalayan peaks, angling for trout, visit to homestays to experience local culture, rock climbing, rappelling and river crossing and more.
Hemis Gompa, the largest and richest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh plays host to the popular yearly festival day called Hemis Tsechu. During this 2-day festival, the locals get dressed-up in traditional clothes, where men wear cummerbunds and women wear vibrant headgears and loads of jewelry. The Lamas perform sacred masked dance, known as Chaam while they are accompanied by musical drums, long horns and cymbals. The most mysterious form of celebration are the mystic mask dances which attracts a lot of tourist to the festival.
When:: June/July every year Where: Hemis Gompa, Ladakh
Ladakh's lesser-known neighbor, the cold mountain desert of Spiti, is for travellers who dare to drift from the tourist trails. Spiti's postcard villages remain remotely tucked away in the lap of the mighty, barren Himalayas of Himachal Pradesh, and it is here that you can hike along Snow Leopard and Himalayan Wolf habitats, visit monasteries dating back over a 1000 years, sample a fascinating culture and cuisine different from the rest of India, and meet the kindest of people who live the harshest of lives. This is a world within a world, as Rudyard Kipling once described it.
Visit the Gompas & Monastries
Key Monastery is one of the biggest and oldest Monasteries in Spiti and hence is the most important tourist destination in this region. It enshrines idols of Buddha in Dhyana position. Tabo Gompa & Dhankar Gompa are worth visiting too for their history and architecture.
River Rafting & Trekking
River rafting in Pin and Spiti Rivers can be the ride of your life, as it features awesome rapids and takes you through amazing landscapes. The region is known for adventurous terrain and thus makes for a great place to trek and explore the area on foot. Though its also popular among the bikers.
Visit the world's highest post office
Hikkim, at an altitude of 4400 m is one of the highest year-round inhabited locations in India. It houses world's highest post office.
Chandratal, literally translating into Moon Lake, gets its name from its crescent shape. Located at a distance of 7-8 km from Kunzum Pass, the lake is a major attraction for photographers and adventure seekers. Another Surajtal Lake is also known for its picture perfect views.
Ki Chaam Festival
The monastery at Ki is the scene of whirling dances performed by brightly costumed and masked lamas on the last day of this one-week festival. A great experience.
From the Kitchen...
Dumplings or Momos, a popular dish of tibetan origin, has today become the most loved street food around India and many parts of the world. So while we were talking about Spiti region, momos deserve a mention. Here is a quick recipe for you to try it in your kitchen.
2 cups refined flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp oil
1 cup carrots - grated
1 cup cabbage - grated
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 cup onion - finely chopped
1 tsp garlic - chopped
1 tsp Soya sauce
1/4 tsp vinegar
1/4 tsp black pepper
Mix the flour, salt, oil and milk and knead to a stiff dough.
Heat oil and add the onion and garlic. Saute over high heat and add the carrot and cabbage. Turn around over high heat till glossy. Take it off the heat and mix in the Soya sauce, salt, vinegar and black pepper.
Roll the dough thin (translucent) and cut into 4"-5" rounds. Take a round, wet edges and place some filling in the center. Bring edges together to cover the filling. Twist to seal and fill the rest in the same way.
Steam for about 10 minutes and serve with chilli sauce and mayonnaise.