Spiti or Ladakh? How to choose between the two arid jewels of HimalayasSunday, May 15, 2016
|Dusk at Mudh, Pin Valley National Park, Spiti|
While both Ladakh and Spiti share a similar culture and landscape, the resemblance is only skin-deep. Beyond the prejudices and preferences of eager travellers, both Spiti and Ladakh have plenty to offer to the discerning and it's hard to pick one over the other. However, based on personal proclivities and travel styles, you could have an easier time of choosing one because unfortunately in real world, we can't have it all. If by any chance you can, go to Spiti and Ladakh both!
If not, this table might help you decide.
P.S - In case you're wondering why you should listen to me, I have been to Ladakh six times and Spiti thrice so far.
|Tashigong, frontier village in Spiti||Thicksey Monastery in Ladakh|
|Minimum time required to reach (Ex-Delhi)|
|Ease of Access|
|It takes at least 2 days to get in and 2 more to get out. The journeys are long and tiring. You'll have to reach either Manali or Shimla and change another bus/jeep to get to Spiti. From Manali, it takes a day and from Shimla, it takes 2 days by road. |
Comfort Level: Low
|There was once a time where reaching Leh took at least 3 days. Now all it takes is two flights from down south and you're there at the roof of the world in half a day! Also, the roads are much better compared to Spiti. |
Comfort Level: High
|Technically open all year round but road blocks are common and travel within the valley is restricted during off season, which is pretty much most of the year except June to October.||Open all year around thanks to flights. Within Ladakh, roads are kept open by the Indian army so you can get around easily all through the year.|
There are now guesthouses/homestays in many of the major villages across Spiti but getting around isn't as easy as Ladakh. You'll have to hitchhike or walk if you don't come with your own vehicle. There's only one ATM in the valley and forget Internet while you're here.
|Well developed |
All ranges of hotels/guesthouses available and it's very easy to find a shared ride to many of the famous places of Ladakh. Multi cuisine restaurants, Internet cafes, Bike/Equipment Rentals, Trek Operators etc, you have all of these in Leh.
|Altitude and Acclimatization|
|Most of the villages in Spiti are at a height in between 3800m and 4500m, which makes acclimatization a major concern considering it is not easy to get out of the valley. Kaza is the only place that has a big hospital which proves to be inadequate most of the time since the only cure to AMS is going to lower altitude.||Leh is at 3500m but all other places of interest are between 4000m and 5800m high. Acclimatization wise, Leh is a perfect base to get your body used to the low oxygen before heading into higher grounds. Evacuation out of Leh, in case of a casualty, is super convenient and there are plenty of army camps across the region to help with basic medical aid in worst case scenario.|
| || |
|Kind of difficult to go offbeat in Spiti as there are not many options in the valley to be fair. But it works now because entire Spiti itself is offbeat so far, like how Ladakh was probably 10 years ago. |
Any exploits to go beyond the usual path would require a lot of planning and support from locals. The valley's only artery, the national highway is limiting when it comes to exploration. However, smaller metal roads to the far flung villages of the valley can provide an exhilarating alternative to those interested in offroading.
|Ladakh is so vast, it's a gold mine for offbeat explorers. Beyond the well trodden paths, there's a whole other world waiting to be explored. Since it is also an army bastion, there are little traversed routes that can take you to the most remote corners of the region like Chumur, Demchok, Hanle, Chushul etc. |
Ladakh is the classic case of the journey being more important that the destination. You might have seen Pangong Tso before but reaching there through Chushul/Tsaga La in Changthang or via Agham/Shyok route from Hunder is the stuff that dreams are made of!
|Best suited for|
|Culture vultures/Independent travellers||Landscape lovers/Road trip aficionados|
|Dhankar Lake and Chandratal, both need hiking. |
Vehicles can't reach
|Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri among many others. Vehicles can reach both. |
P.S - Spiti's lakes are no match for these two mammoths!
|Kye and Dhankar whose location and setting is unmatched! |
There are plenty of old monasteries in Spiti apart from these two but none as big as those in Ladakh.
|There are more monasteries here in Ladakh than you can visit. You'll be spoilt for choice.|
Advice for first timers:Despite reading all the differences and still unsure which one to choose out of the two, here's my advice.
If you're only going to visit Leh, Pangong, Tso Moriri and Khardung La in Ladakh, I'd recommend Spiti as you'll have a much more immersive experience there when compared to the now done-to-death Ladakh trip. In case you'll be going beyond these well known places, I'd recommend Ladakh all the way!
|Kiagar Tso, Ladakh|