Nestled in the lap of the majestic Himalayas lies the magical land of Lahaul. Connected to the tourist town of Manali via the exhilarating Rohtang Pass, Lahaul remains relatively unexplored despite its wealth of natural beauty and cultural riches. As I embarked on a road trip from Manali to Lahaul, little did I know that it would turn out to be one of the most memorable journeys of my life.
Manali to Lahaul
The journey started early in the morning from Manali as we set out to conquer the Rohtang Pass. As the road started snaking uphill, the landscape changed dramatically. The fresh pine scented airs of Manali soon gave way to stark rugged mountains. After an adventurous drive of about 3 hours, we finally made it to the top of Rohtang Pass at 3978 meters. The first glimpse of Lahaul from the pass was almost ethereal. The entire valley was engulfed in a veil of clouds with snow-capped peaks peeping through them. We stopped briefly at the pass to enjoy the glorious views and for some tea and snacks to rejuvenate ourselves.
Chandrataal Lake: A Journey from Rohtang Pass to a World of Tranquil Beauty
As we left Rohtang Pass behind, it felt like entering a whole new world. The landscape was now bare and stark, dominated by soaring brown mountains. Glacial streams crisscrossed the valley and the River Chandra flowed majestically through this remotest corner of Himachal Pradesh. Theâ€‹ first village we passed through was Gramphu. With its green fields and pretty houses, it was a refreshing sight for our eyes tired of viewing the barren mountains. The road passed through small villages and settlements like Koksar and Sissu, providing glimpses into the simple yet hardy lives of the locals. The architecture was distinctly Tibetan with white-washed houses and brightly painted windows.
By afternoon, we finally reached Chandrataal Lake which was the highlight of our trip. The first view of its pristine blue-green waters with the imposing peaks of the Chandra Bhaga range reflecting on its surface was simply breathtaking. We decided to set up camp near the lake and spend the night here, to fully soak in its beauty. As the sun went down, the lake seemed to change colors from emerald green to a mystical indigo. Gazing at a sky full of stars while listening to the haunting sound of wind rattling the lakeside rocks and bushes was an unforgettable experience.
From Chandrataal to Kaza: Exploring the Diverse Landscapes and Hidden Treasures of Spiti Valley
The next day, our destination was Kaza – the headquarters of Lahaul region. The landscape began to change once again, from the greenery of Chandrataal to the rugged beauty of Spiti Valley. Brown, arid mountains flanked us on both sides as we drove through Kunzum Pass into Spiti. We passed numerous small villages with green oases of barley fields dotting the valley. By late afternoon, we finally reached Kaza which almost felt like a thriving metropolis after days of driving through largely uninhabited areas. We spent time roaming the little town, especially the main market area with its colorful handicraft shops and cozy cafes. The Tibetan influence was quite evident in the architecture and culture of the town.
The next couple of days were spent exploring some of the hidden gems around Kaza. We started with Key Monastery – the largest monastery in Spiti Valley, over 1000 years old. Perched on top of a hill, this majestic monastery provided sweeping 360 degree views. The ancient murals and stupas inside gave us a glimpse into Buddhism practiced in this remote region. We also visited Kibber, touted as one of the world’s highest permanently inhabited villages at 4205 meters. The sight of green fields and snow-capped mountains surrounding this tiny village was truly spectacular. Some of the other highlights were dizzying depths of Chandertal Lake, ancient fossils near Langza village, andmoonlike landscapes of Hikkim with its post office claimed to be world’s highest.
On our last day, we decided to take the more challenging route to Manali via Kunzum Pass and Chandra Taal. Although the road was bad in parts, the rewards were plentiful. We got even better views of surreal Chandra Taal this time, surrounded by snow-covered peaks. The descent to Manali from Kunzum Pass was equally adventure-filled with breathtaking views at every turn. Reaching Manali felt like coming a full circle from where we started.
The 10 day journey from Manali to Lahaul and back turned out to be an experience of a lifetime. The raw natural beauty, cultural delights, adventure, and human connections made it unforgettable. I returned with a camera full of memories and a heart brimming with gratitude for the hidden treasures of Lahaul that were unveiled to me. The region exceeds expectations not just in stunning landscapes but also in spiritual wealth rooted in Buddhism. So if unspoiled natural glory and cultural delights resonate with your traveling spirit, I strongly recommend this epic road trip. Just be sure to keep enough days in hand to immerse yourself fully rather than rushing through this magical place. Let the stark valleys, winding roads, turquoise lakes and warm smiles unleash a profound journey within.