Kaza, the sub-divisional headquarters of Spiti, is situated on the left bank of the Spiti river. The village is overlooked by steep ridges. Kaza makes an ideal base camp for all treks and tours within the valley. Guides, porters, pack animals and most importantly permits for treks can be obtained in Kaza. Kaza has one of the two Sa-kya-pa sect monasteries. The other monastery is at Hikkim. Opposite Kaza on the right bank of the Spiti river is Kyuling from where the ‘nono’ of Spiti ruled over his subjects. Rani Damyanti, a descendent of this ruling family, now resides in Kaza preserving all the stately charm of the yester years. The highest villages in the world connected by a motorable road are Kibber, Gete, Langza, Hikkim and Comic; make a easy day tour from Kaza.
Height: 3600 m
Climate: Kaza remains cut off from other parts from November to May due to heavy snowfall. Heavy woollens are required during this time. In summer, light woollens are recommended.
Getting There & Away: How to reach Kaza
Kaza can only be visited by road from either Shimla or Manali. Shimla has the nearest railhead and airport at the distance of 450 kms. Manali, via Kunzum Pass and Rohtang Pass, is 205 kms away.
Tourist Attractions in Kaza
Ki Gompa (12 kms, 4116 m): On the left bank of the river Spiti, the Ki Gompa is built on a spur that extends from high hill. This is regarded as the largest of the sub-division and is a collection of rooms and a labyrinth of corridors that do not follow any defined plan, but seem to have grown over the years. Portions of the structure are three stories high, while others are lower. No definite data can be ascribed to the construction of the Gompa – that acted both as a monastery and as a fort. Some scholars believe this to have been built by Dromton (1008 – 64 AD). This is a repository of rare thangka paintings and several ancient musical instruments – trumpets, cymbals and drums. Its library holds the manuscript of the sacred Tangyur texts. Apart from the cells occupied by the monks, the Gompa has the large dukhang, assembly chamber lined by religious paintings and other chambers for worship and gatherings. The chamber of the incarnate abbot, the zim-chung is the highest point in the building.
Kibber (8 kms from Ki, 4205 m): Situated in a narrow valley on the summit of a limestone rock, this is the highest permanently inhabited village of the region connected by a motorable road. There is a monastery in Kibber which is named aftr Serkang Rimpochhe of Tabo. The lama breathed his last in Kibber in 1983 and when he was being cremated, a water source erupted from the spot. Even today, the source is being used by the villagers. There is a traditional trade route from Kibber to Ladakh over Parang La. The Spitians go to Ladakh to barter their horses for yaks or to sell for cash. The trek to Ladakh takes minimum 3 nights halts. Permits are required for this trek. Kibber also acts as the base for several high altitude treks.
Dhanker (3370 m, 24 kms): 7 kms from the turn-off at Schichling on the Tabo-Kaza highway. In the local parlance, a ‘dhankar’ is a fort and that is what this monastery once was. Perched high over the valley, this is a superb example of Spiti’s traditional architectural skills. This was once the castle of the ruler of Spiti – the Nono, and today, Dhankar is a repository of Buddhist scriptures in the Bhoti script.
Pin Valley: At Atragoo, 10 kms from Schichling village, a side road leads to this valley formed by the Pin River, a tributary of the Spiti. The valley lies below the Kungri glacier and has several monasteries – the most important one is at Gungri, and has three blocks. This houses old relics and paintings and is the main centre of the Nyingma-pa sect in Spiti. It is built in three detached blocks and is said to date back to the times of Padmasambhava. The Pin Valley is a National Park, and is home to a variety of rare animals like the snow leopard, the ibex, the bharal and the thar. It has good treks – the main route connects the Kullu valley over the Pin Parvati pass and the other is through the Bhaba valley.
Tabo (3050 m, 47 kms): Founded in 996 AD, the Tabo Gompa has exquisite wall paintings and stucco statues – and is often called the ‘Ajanta of the Himalayas’, after the almost legendary art-treasure site in Maharashtra. In terms of area, this is the largest monastic complex in Spiti, and the old section has nine temples, 23 chortens, a monks’s chamber and a nun’s chamber. There are several caves and contemporary structures that form a part of the Tabo complex. In Trans Himalayan Buddhism, Tabo’s sanctity is next only to Tibet’s Tholing monastery.
Lingti Valley: Through a deep gorge, the Lingti stream, another one of the Spiti’s tributaries, flows down from the north. It offers some strenuous treks.
Losar (4040 m): This is the last inhabited village which is situated near the confluence of Peeno and Losar rivers. The views of Spiti valley and river from the top of the village are breathtaking. Yak and horse riding are major attractions of this village.
Kunzum La (4551 m, 76 kms): One of the highest motorable passes. Goddess Kunzum keeps guard over the pass and wards of the evil.
Chandertal Lake (4270 m): This beautiful lake is known as Moon Lake and is a popular destination for trekkers and campers. The lake is accessible on foot from Batal as well as from Kunzum Pass from late May to early October. There is also a motorable road from Batal which is 13 kms away from Chandertal, but before August, its condition can be bad. The road from Kunzum Pass is accessible only on foot, and it is about 7 kms from here.