ATAN ALTITUEDof 2,750 (9,022 ft), Lahaul and Spiti, bordering Tibet and Ladakh’s Zanskar Valley, comprise the trans-Himalayan regions of western Himachal Pradesh. Unlike the lush meadows of the Kullu Valley, this is a barren land of rocky massifs and hanging glaciers, enclosed by the Himalayas to the north and the Pir Panjal to the south. Rainfall is scarce and the region is dependent upon glacial melt for the cultivation of its main crops, barley, millet and seed potato.

While the difficult terrain inhibits many travellers from going to Spiti . Lshaul is more accessible. tipper Lahaul is a stark land of high mountains enveloping the deep valleys of the Chandra and Bhaga rivers, while Lower Lahaul lies below Tandi, where the two rivers meet and become the Chandrabhaga, or Chenab. Today, Lahaul’s social structure is an interesting mix of Buddhism and Hinduism, reflecting the close ties the region had with Tibet, Ladakh and neighbouring Fullu.

Keylong, the district headquarters on the Bhaga river, is the region’s principal town. With many basic facilities, it is widely used as a stopover by travellers en route to Leh or as a base for treks. Across the river, opposite Keylong, a steep tree-shaded pathway leads to Drugpa Kardang Gompa, the largest monastery (gompa) in Lahaul. It has a fine collection of tbangkas musical instruments and old weapons. Nearby is the 16thcentury Shashur Gompa. This monastery is renowned for its long 4.5 m (15 ft) thangka .

On the road to Manali, about 16 km (10 miles) south of Keylong, the eight-storeyed tower of the Gondhla chiefsdominates the landscape. The oldest monastery in Lahaul, the 800-year-old Guru Ghantal Gompa at Tandi, 11 km (7 miles) southwest of Keylong, is believed to have been etablished by Guru Padmasamblaava , the Founderof Tibetan Buddhism. Other places worth visiting are the carved wooden Mrikula Devi Temple at Udaipur, in the Pattan Valley, 44 km (27 miles) west of Tandi, and Triloltinathh,with its marble image of Avalokitesvara .

Beyond Keylong, the road to Leh passes the last Lahaul village of Darcha with a trekking route to Zanskar via the Shingo-la.

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