Everyone in their right minds would want their life to be peaceful, rather than full of turmoil. Some take to meditation, some shut themselves from the world, some perform yoga, some look to religion and some resort to travelling like a nomad. If you are indeed thinking of heading out in search of inner peace, alone or with a group, then you do not have to go too far. There are places within our “great country”, where you can be immersed in utter serenity, with nothing troubling you. You guessed it, such places are far from the city. Isolated from modern civilisation, these places are mostly in the mountains.

My personal choice for finding peace has been to head to the Spiti Valley and the adjoining Lahaul region, in Himachal Pradesh. Its significance for serenity seekers is twofold: there is nothing here except for untouched nature all around, and Buddhism pervades through it. When you combine these two aspects, you know you will never have to go anyplace else to find peace and may be even yourself. Peace, you can find at a plethora of Buddhist monasteries, called “gompa” in the local language, that are mostly perched atop mountains, making for a spectacular view. If you have seen Lord of the Rings, then these would look to you like the White Castle of Minas Tirith. Keep reading to learn about the gompas in the region. These alluring monasteries of Spiti Valley will surely leave you astonished!

Whether you are solo, or a group of friends or a family, it doesn’t matter, Spiti Valley is one landscape you must travel to, and if you don’t, you really are missing witnessing a lot in a lifetime. Why so? Well, you’ll know as you read through this.

Many of us might not know that Tibet is known as the roof of the world, as it is the highest inhabited land in the whole world, home to the mightiest Himalayas, the home of his holiness Dalai Lama, the land of mystic people and culture. If you have watched the movie Seven Years in Tibet starring Brad Pitt, you will know what I am talking about. And if you haven’t, then go watch it now.

The first time I traveled to Spiti Valley was in the year 2009 which was on a motor bike. Back then no one, including myself, had any idea about this valley and the history behind it. It was gruesome and rough, and I was just 21 years old. We started our ride from Manali and crossed through the rough plateaus of the valley over a period of 7 days including Gramphu, Chhatru, Batal, Chandratal, Kaza, Tabo, Nako and finally Rekong Peo. Back then there were very few Indian travelers on the highway; more of foreigners, and it did come to me as a shock that a hidden valley existed in such close proximity to us and yet most were not aware of this magical land.  I knew that I was going to go back there soon again, didn’t know when, but I felt a deep connection with the land.

Some memories are etched in our minds so deep that they remain with us for the lifetime! And one such wonderful memory of mine is that of my journey along the Hindustan Tibet Road with my favourite group of friends. It was my friend’s idea to take this road trip. Initially, we all were a bit apprehensive, but finally all of us agreed; glad that we did!

Constructed in 1850, the Hindustan-Tibet road or National Highway 22 is probably one of the most impressive feats of human endeavour, and one needs to drive through it to actually understand it. This road starts from Ambala in Haryana and passes through Chandigarh, Shimla and Spiti Valley, before finally winding down at the village of Khab on the border with Tibet. This road, especially as one drives high into the mountains, is probably one of the most treacherous ones in the world.

“The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind.” – William Saroyan

Bicycle tours are fast coming up as an exciting activity for both fitness and adventure enthusiasts. You can go on a bicycle tour in the hilliest of the cities, in the remotest of villages, in the densest of jungles, and in the most developed metros. Say no to over-crowded buses and pocket-burning cabs with any of these ultimate cycling trips in India that you just cannot miss!

Bicycle Tour in Leh
Cycling all the way from the picturesque Manali to the heavenly Leh is one of the most physically challenging, yet the most satisfying experiences. It takes you through some of the world’s highest passes, scenic trails and the mightiest of mountains. You will touch altitudes almost as high as 16000 feet on passes like Rohtang La, Tanglang La, Lachulung La and Baralacha La. Also, on this cycling tour, you get to witness the beauty and changing landscape of 2 mountain ranges, including the Zanskar Range and the Pir Panjal Range. And before you begin to worry about loneliness, it is wise to point out that plummeting valley, gushing rivers and herds of sheep are constantly going to keep you company.

The Great Himalayan beauty is not just limited to mountains! The Himalayan Lakes are breathtaking too! I am sure once you get to know about these stunning lakes in Himalayas, you will feel that any trip to the Himalayas is incomplete without paying a visit to this awe-inspiring water bodies!

Many of these high altitude lakes are freshwater lakes formed by glacial activity. Some of these stunning lakes are only accessible through difficult treks to these regions and that’s one of the reason they have managed to retain their beauty and charm! These high altitudes will take your breath away by not only their beauty but by their unique features! Some have ever-changing colors and some are the best birding spots.

People might not know about these mesmerising lakes but some determined trekkers trek for days all the way just to see the beauty of these great Himalayan Lakes!

I have picked up some of the most beautiful ones. When I look at them, I imagine myself sitting on the shore, gazing at them and peacefully taking in all the beauty.

If self-discovery is what you are looking for, then travelling on the endless roads on a motorbike is just the thing for you. A motorbike tour not just unleashes the adventurer in you, but is a journey of new experiences that can never be felt otherwise. Already feeling the adrenalin rush? Keep reading to know about some of the best motorbike routes in the Himalayas that will immediately beckon the rider in you. Here’s our lowdown on the must-do motorbike tours in the Himalayas.

  1. Motorbike Tour in Ladakh 

The concept of motorbike tours in India was made popular by the number of adventure enthusiasts, visiting Leh on their bikes. The challenging circuits, coupled with the beauty of the mountains, have attracted travellers from all across the world. The one thing that makes this trip the ultimate adrenalin-pumping experience is the unpredictability of the rocky terrain. Add to that the close brush-up with Tibetan culture, monasteries and nomadic tribes, and this motorbike tour turns magical.  There are many routes that you could take in this region, like the Manali to Ladakh, Srinagar to Manali, Chandigarh to Manali via Srinagar, Ladakh and back to Chandigarh, or you could simply fly to Leh and indulge in motorbike trips within Ladakh.

I have always travelled with my close friends, but this time I wanted to explore the world from a different perspective and travel solo. At first, it felt like a challenge to me more than a dream come true, it was like some big mission I had to accomplish! The scepticism delayed my plans. I started to feel like travelling alone and that too being a woman was a taboo. But then I had to break the barriers and do what I felt was right.

And then the magic happened! I found myself lying under the inky blue sky clustered with stars in the Spiti Valley. The solitaires of sky were shining bright above the snowy mountains! My luck took me there on a full moon night which made the mountains appear like silver. This is one experience I can never ever forget! Until now, I was scared of darkness. But out there under the starry sky which seemed like a painting of Van Gogh, I learned that there is more to night beyond darkness. The temperature was 8 degrees below zero, and I took out my warmest shawl which I had bought from Nagaland, and sat outside the tent for a few more minutes just to take in the exquisite beauty of the starry sky! I was lost deep in my thoughts and suddenly, I realized that I was all alone there and I had done it!

Chocolate colored mountains from the Spiti Valley - One of my first clicks on my first solo trip!
Chocolate colored mountains from the Spiti Valley – One of my first clicks on my first ever solo trip!

A self-drive tour is an amazing way to explore a destination with freedom and flexibility. Travellers try to find adventure in the trips and they like experimenting with new destinations. In India people are looking for more flexible and adventurous tourism products like Self-drive tours. It is very popular among the travelers in Europe and US, but now it is gaining popularity among Indian travellers who travel abroad as well as in India.

Self-drive road trip is an old concept abroad but it has started recently in India. According to Mumbai’s RTO, applications for International driving license have gone up by 25% in past one year. There are at least 9 countries where you can drive with your Indian driving license. But you can drive only the type of vehicle you drive in India, so it’s better to opt for an international driving license while travelling abroad. The number is increasing as many Indian travellers look for more freedom and flexibility during their trips and do not want a set schedule.

A drive through heaven on earth - Kashmir
A drive through heaven on earth – Kashmir

The journey to Lahaul and Spiti Valley will take you to the roads less traveled, literally! It is “The Middle Land” between India and Tibet. From wide fields of snow to wide fields of barley, from lush green valley to cold desert with different shades of brown, it has the most breath taking scenery that you would ever see. The legend says that long ago in 8th century, Padmasambhava, the Indian Monk, established and blessed some of the monasteries in Spiti and ever since they have remained unchanged. Kunzum La – which rises to 15000 feet divides Lahaul and Spiti regions. Lose yourself in the most astonishing valley of the Himalayas, exploring the beautiful moon landscapes, deep blue lakes, golden snow peaks and the most remote villages of India.

Ibn Battuta was a Moroccan explorer, recognized as one of the greatest travelers of all times. He said that traveling leaves you speechless; then turns you into a storyteller. The journey to the valleys of Lahaul and Spiti will be the most adventurous story you will have. Lahaul and Spiti lie exactly between the Mighty Himalayas and Pir Panjal ranges. A trip to this place will give you the most peaceful time of your life when you look at those ranges standing by the banks of the Spiti River. More days you spend in this enchanting place, more interesting things you will discover about the people and the place.

The grandeur of the mountains!
The grandeur of the mountains!

One story from this place fascinates me more than any other I have heard so far. Legend says that many centuries ago Spiti – then a part of Tibet – faced a terrible drought. Rivers had almost dried and people were starving to death. To make the situation better, monks from various monasteries took to solitary meditation in caves in the rocky mountains. One of them was the famed Giu Lama.

India is home to some of the most diverse landscapes from mountains, valleys to forests, deserts and beaches. This diversity in topography attracts people from all over the world in every season to experience India in her many colors. India boasts some of the most beautiful valleys like the extremely popular Nubra in Ladakh or the verdant Dibang Valley in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. Come explore these with us.

  1. Nubra Valley, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir
    Believed to be originally called Ldumra meaning the Valley of Flowers, Nubra is located to the north east of Ladakh Valley, approximately 150 kms from Leh. The meeting of Nubra and Shyok (tributary of Indus) Rivers forms a large valley, separating the Karakoram and Ladakh Ranges. This valley can be reached by travelling over the Khardung La from Leh. The average altitude of Nubra is roughly 10,000 feet above sea level.
    An array of colors at Nubra Valley
    An array of colors at Nubra Valley Image Credits: wikipedia.org

     

  2. Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh
    Located high in the north eastern part of Himachal Pradesh, Spiti Valley is situated between Tibet and India. It is a desert mountain valley and is one of the least populated regions of the country. It is a part of Lahaul and Spiti district and is home to similar Buddhist culture as found in Tibet and Ladakh. Kunzum La at 4,590 meters separates Lahaul from Spiti. The entire valley is surrounded by high mountain ranges. Heavy snowfalls cut off the valley from the rest of the country for almost 2-3 months from November to January every year.
    The ever-welcoming Spiti Valley
    The ever-welcoming Spiti Valley Image Credits: wikipedia.org

     

  3. Dzukou Valley, Nagaland
    Considered to be one of the most beautiful places in Nagaland, the Dzukou Valley is just ideal for easy to moderate trekking. Dzukou means Cold Water which comes from the cold streams of water that flow through the valley. It is known for its flora and fauna and particularly seasonal flowers like Dzukou Lily found only in this area. It sits at 8339 feet above sea level behind the Japfu Peak at the border between Manipur and Nagaland.