Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India
Separated from fertile Lahaul by the soaring 4551m Kunzum La, Spiti is another chunk of Tibet marooned in India. The scattered villages in this serrated moonscape arrive like mirages, clusters of whitewashed mud-brick homes huddled amid green barley fields below monasteries perched on crags a thousand feet above. The turquoise-grey ribbon of the Spiti River is your near-constant companion, running along a fairly broad valley before turning south at Sumdo into the precipitous gorges of the Hangrang Valley.
In many ways Spiti is even more rugged and remote than Ladakh, but buses do run over the Kunzum La from Manali from mid-June to mid-October, and the road from Kinnaur is open all year (except for temporary closures for winter snowfall and monsoon landslides and floods).
The Spiti–Kinnaur loop is one of Asia’s great road trips, and a steady stream of motorcyclists, mountain bikers and drivers of all kinds of four-wheelers pit themselves against some of the most challenging roads in India. In either direction, an inner line permit is required for the stretch between Sumdo, east of Tabo, and the Akpa checkpoint east of Rekong Peo.
Visit India, Epic India Route © Monika Newbound